House approves legislation to renew payroll tax cut

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In a GOP win, coverage for the long-term unemployed would be cut from the current maximum of 99 weeks to a ceiling of 73 weeks by this fall in states with the worst job markets, with most topping out at 63 weeks.

The $30 billion cost of the extended benefits would be paid for half by government sales of parts of the nation’s broadcast airwaves, half by requiring federal workers hired after this year to contribute an additional 2.3 percent of their pay for their pensions, up from the current 0.8 percent.

That increase also would apply to members of Congress, but only those who begin service as of next January — exempting every current lawmaker.

The bill also would prevent a 27 percent cut in federal payments to doctors who treat Medicare patients, a reduction that threatened to make it harder for seniors to find physicians.

That would cost about $18 billion. It would be paid for by trimming Medicare reimbursements to health care providers to cover unpaid medical bills, cutting payments to hospitals that treat large numbers of poor patients and cutting a fund created in Obama’s health care overhaul for preventing diseases caused by smoking and obesity.

A House-approved measure letting states test unemployment benefit applicants for drug testing was pared back, permitting the tests only for people who lost their jobs due to drug use or whose new jobs would require such tests.

Those seeking unemployment coverage would have to show they are actively seeking work, but another GOP-backed provision forcing them to pursue high school equivalency diplomas was abandoned.

Associated Press writer Andrew Taylor contributed to this report.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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