Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., pledged to have the Senate act on a new unemployment extension if bipartisan talks lead to a deal.
Reid said he hasn't given up trying to renew emergency unemployment insurance benefits, which expired in December.
He praised the work of Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., who has been working with Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., to restore the benefits, so far without success. Nevada and Rhode Island have the two highest unemployment rates in the nation.
“My colleague from Nevada, Dean Heller, has been stellar on this,” Reid said. “He has talked about it at least once a week. What he is doing is scrambling to get few more Republicans.”
“Of course anytime that Sen. Heller makes any progress on this we’ll bring it back because people are just as [in need of aid] as they were two months ago,” Reid said. Heller said this week that the issue continues to be a priority for him.
“Our staffs are talking, we continue to try to find legislation that we can attach something prospectively to,” Heller said.
One possible vehicle could be the highway bill that Congress must renew before the end of the summer.
Heller and Reed drafted a five-month extension that was retroactive to December when benefits were first cut off. The cost of the bill was fully offset using a combination of revenue raisers that includes extending “pension smoothing” provisions from the 2012 highway bill and extending customs user fees through 2024.
The Senate passed the bipartisan measure in April, but the Republican-led House never acted on the bill citing the difficulty for states to implement the measure, and frustration over the lack of action on House-passed bills designed to spur job creation in the Senate.
Reid’s comments came as he and other Senate Democratic leaders touted legislation, drafted by Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., to allow the refinancing of student loan debt refinance into lower interest rates. The Senate is expected to take up the bill next week.
The measure is part of Democrats' "fair shot" agenda, and is unlikely to be supported by Republicans, in part, because it would be paid for with a new tax on millionaires.
Given the expected GOP opposition, Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., the number three Senate Democrats, said that Democrats were open to a different offset.
“But if our Republican colleagues want a different pay-for … we welcome to step forward,” Schumer said.
The student loan bill does not include an unemployment extension.
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