Stabenow to bring standalone Unemployment extension bill

Today, Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) plans to introduce a standalone bill to continue federally extended unemployment insurance benefits. The major federal jobs bill, also known as H.R. 4213, included the unemployment extension along with a number of other provisions but that bill failed to move forward to a vote last week. Republicans asked Democrats to bring legislation separate from the jobs bill to deal with just unemployment benefits. There has been wrangling and strategizing ever since. Meantime, beginning in June, approximately 1.2 million Americans have lost their unemployment benefits, a blow to those Americans and a blow to the national economy.

Democratic Sens. Sherrod Brown (Ohio), Al Franken (Minn.), Jeff Merkley (Ore.) and Sheldon Whitehouse (R.I.) are cosponsors. The Colorado Independent’s sister site in Washington spoke with Stabenow and Brown on the issue last week.

The new bill will include a $25-a-week supplement that was dropped as Democrats pared the jobs bill back to meet the requirements of moderate deficit hawks, none of whom ultimately voted for the bill. The new bill does not create any new tiers of unemployment benefits, instead restoring Tier IV benefits to the jobless. Congress added or expanded Tiers I through IV last year, as part of its stimulus plan.

Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), who refused to cross the aisle for the jobs bill — objecting to, among other things, the closing of a tax loophole for “S corporations” — has said she will vote for a standalone UI bill. She urged Senate Democrats to take one up last week.

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