Reid Wants to Pass Unemployment Insurance, Ukraine Aid and 'Doc Fix' This Week

Looking to pass an unemployment insurance extension, pay for doctors and an aid package for Ukraine, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., warned that the Senate may have to stay in through the weekend if Republicans launch filibusters. “Everyone should understand we have a lot to do,” Reid said on the Senate floor. “We may have to be in this weekend if we are forced to go through all of the procedural hoops.” Senate Democrats have signaled they are going full-speed ahead on the bipartisan bill restoring emergency unemployment benefits despite opposition to their bill from Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio. Reid also wants to act to spare doctors from a severe cut in Medicare payments slated to begin next month and tee up a bill to raise the minimum wage for debate next week. But Republicans could throw a monkey wrench in Reid's plan if they don't agree to expedite consideration of the three bills. The first order of business will be the Ukraine bill. The Senate is expected to clear a procedural vote this evening on the measure, which has bipartisan support. Reid was critical of Republicans who before the recess objected to his unanimous consent request to set up a time for a vote on passage of a bill. Some Republicans oppose language in the bill that would allow the International Monetary Fund that would approve an overhaul of the IMF’s structure. Heritage Action For America opposes the bill and said it would use the vote as part of its legislative scorecard, which the group contends gauges how conservative members are. But Reid said it would augment the $1 billion in loan guarantees that the bill would provide. “This legislation provides … direct money for Ukraine,” Reid said, adding that with the IMF provision “they would be able to multiply that money many times over what we put into this.” Reid praised Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn. — the ranking member of the Foreign Relations Committee, which approved the measure before the recess — for his support of the measure. He also praised Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and others for their support. “I am hopeful and somewhat confident that this legislation will receive the bipartisan support it deserves,” Reid said. The majority leader also that he wants to clear a bipartisan measure that would extend unemployment insurance benefits for five months. The proposal would be offset by a combination of revenue-raisers, including extending customs user fees. “That is one thing we have to do this work period and we are going to try to do that,” Reid said, adding that some people are being “driven into poverty” after benefits expired in December. Other business he wants to consider includes legislation for the so called “doc fix.” Unless Congress acts, doctors who treat Medicare patients would see a 23.7 percent cut in their reimbursements on April 1, which would likely motivate physicians to stop seeing new or existing Medicare patients. Reid also wants to set up action on a bill to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour — a signature proposal for the Democrats this year but one that has yet to attract much Republican support.