Senate negotiators reached a bipartisan deal Thursday that would renew federal unemployment benefits for the long-term jobless, allowing for retroactive payments to go to millions of Americans who fell off the insurance program when it expired in late December.
Sens. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine), two of the main negotiators, each said a deal had been cinched that would allow for the legislation to pass the Senate in late March, but its outcome in the House remains up in the air.
Five Republicans and five Democrats signed on to the legislation — which likely will be unveiled later Thursday — giving supporters more than enough Republicans to clear the 60-vote hurdle that Senate conservatives have imposed, arguing its roughly $10 billion price tag is too high.
“It has now been 75 days since UI expired, and it needs to be renewed. We’re not at the finish line yet, but this is a bipartisan breakthrough,” Reed said in a statement.
“I’m pleased that we’ve reached an agreement that will get a sufficient number of Republican votes,” Collins told reporters.
Earlier in the day Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) and Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) signaled that the framework for legislation would create a five-month extension of the federal benefits plan for the jobless, backdating the extension to late December, when the program expired. It will run through the end of May, if it passes the House and is signed into law.
The bill would effectively restart a key aid program for long-term unemployed workers whose jobless benefits went beyond the state limits, which are roughly 26 weeks with some variation for each state.
The $10 billion cost of the federal jobless benefits would be offset by new fees on goods coming through U.S. Customs and an alteration to the way corporations contribute to pensions, Heller said.
This article originally appeared in The Washington Post.
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