A group of GOP senators Thursday proposed a $10 billion plan to extend federal unemployment insurance benefits for five months without adding to the nation's deficit.
Sens. Dean Heller, R-Nev., and Susan Collins, R-Maine, are among the seven Republican co-sponsors of the plan, which would resurrect federal jobless benefits that ran out on Dec. 28 and provide retroactive pay.
The Senate could take up another vote on unemployment benefits next week. Democrats have proposed their own federal jobless pay legislation, which would keep benefits going for six months at a cost of $12 billion.
The Senate since late last year has been locked in partisan gridlock over whether to extend jobless pay and how, with Republicans insisting on offsets to pay for it.
The latest Democratic proposal would use savings in the farm bill to offset the cost, a nonstarter with the GOP.
The Republican bill would cover the benefit costs by extending a waiver on pension rules so that companies would be allowed to contribute less, resulting in higher taxes paid to the Treasury. The bill would also raise revenue by eliminating the overlap of unemployment insurance and disability insurance, and would extend Customs User Fees until 2024.
The GOP bill includes provisions aimed at reforming the federal unemployment insurance program, which has been in place for more than five years.
Millionaires and billionaires would be excluded from receiving jobless pay. And those who are eligible would be monitored to ensure only people who are actively looking for jobs receive the money. Check recipients would also have to be assessed to determine why they have been out of work for so long, and to determine the necessary steps to get the recipient back into the workforce.
“This is a fiscally responsible path forward to provide unemployment insurance benefits to those who lost their jobs through no fault of their own and are searching for work but are unable to find it,” Collins said. “It also includes important reforms to better incorporate job training programs to help people find jobs in fields where employment exists.”
It's not clear whether Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., will take up the bill. He will likely be under considerable pressure from Heller, who has highlighted Nevada's 9 percent unemployment rate.
“Over and over again, I have emphasized with my colleagues the importance of extending unemployment benefits for Nevadans and for people hurting across the country,” Heller said. “This is a responsible proposal that makes important reforms to the current program that I believe will help garner necessary support to pass the Senate if it receives a vote.”
A spokesman for Reid did not respond to a request for a comment.