Vote On Unemployment Benefits May Take Place Thursday

10:28 PM, May 26, 2010   |    comments
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WASHINGTON (AP) -- House Democratic leaders have scaled back a tax and spending package that would extend unemployment benefits, in an attempt to pick up votes from jittery lawmakers concerned about deficit spending.

The pared down bill released Wednesday evening would provide expanded jobless benefits through November, and would delay scheduled cuts in Medicare payments to doctors until 2012.

The cost of the bill was reduced by more than $50 billion, to about $140 billion. It would add about $84 billion to the federal budget deficit.

House leaders hope to vote on the bill Thursday.

If Congress doesn't act, thousands of people would begin to lose jobless benefits when a current extension of unemployment insurance expires next week. A 65 percent subsidy for health insurance benefits for the unemployed under the COBRA program also expires.

The original package unveiled last week would have extended unemployment benefits through December and delayed a 21 percent cut in Medicare payments until 2014.

The bill is a grab bag of unfinished business lawmakers hope to complete before they go on vacation next week. Time is running short for the House to vote because the bill still has to go to the Senate, which can take days to act. Senate leaders have said they are confidant they will have the votes to pass the bill.

The unemployment benefits, which would cost nearly $40 billion, are part of a bill that includes a one-year extension of about 50 popular tax breaks that expired at the end of last year.

Subsidies to help laid off workers pay for health insurance would continue through November, at a cost of $7 billion. States would get $24 billion to help cover Medicaid costs.

The cost of the bill would be partially offset by tax increases on investment fund managers, oil companies and some international businesses. The tax increases total about $57 billion over the next decade.

 

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