An unemployment extension may be headed "back to the drawing board" with the Senate unlikely to attach it to a package of tax breaks and no sign of movement in the House.
As time runs out for the House to act on a five-month, Senate-passed unemployment extension, Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., the main Democratic sponsor of the unemployment benefits bill, said the odds of attaching it to a tax cut package on the Senate floor are long given what just happened with the bipartisan energy efficiency bill.
“We couldn’t get the bipartisan Shaheen-Portman bill through,” Reed lamented. “I think we have the same old dilemma here.”
Reed said he and the chief Republican backer of an unemployment extension, Sen. Dean Heller of Nevada, did discuss the extenders as a possible vehicle. The energy measure, sponsored by Sens. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., and Rob Portman, R-Ohio, fell to a GOP filibuster earlier this week Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., refused to allow votes on five Republican amendments.
“Nothing has been ruled out on the extenders bill, but anyone who wants to pass UI should be focused on pressuring Speaker Boehner, who has the Senate-passed bill sitting in his lap,” a senior Senate Democratic aide said.
“I was honestly hoping that the House would make some movement on their side to reinforce what we did,” said Reed.
Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., said he had not been approached by Heller about the possibility of adding an unemployment extension to the bill, and didn't rule it out either.
"I certainly want to get UI done — we have to see how it affects both bills," Schumer said. "He hasn't come to me, so I haven't ... plotted it out. I haven't thought about it yet."
Schumer said that Finance Chairman Ron Wyden, D-Ore., was continuing to talk with Republicans about the broader question of amendments.
There is also no guarantee of House action even if the Senate added an unemployment insurance extension to the tax extenders bill.
Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, has said the White House needs to come forward with a new jobs proposal before he'll consider an unemployment extension.
Despite bipartisan support for the unemployment bill, which passed the Senate early last month, Boehner had misgivings about whether the bill could be implemented. Republicans also want to pass bills that create jobs rather than deal with the symptoms of joblessness. Boehner has since called on Obama to propose job creations provisions that could be attached.
Reed said he and Heller will continue their efforts if the House doesn’t act before the end of the month, which would be the deadline for passing their retroactive, five-month extension.
“I think that was part of what the House was about, delaying it,” Reed said. “Now we have to go back to the drawing board and figure out a new strategy, which we will do."
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