- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 8, 2013

Sen. Richard J. Durbin, Illinois Democrat, said Sunday that members of his party have not drawn a line in the sand on an extension of unemployment benefits getting included in a possible budget deal.

“I don’t think we’ve reached that point where we’ve said this is it; take it or leave it,” Mr. Durbin said on ABC’s “This Week.” “What I hear from [Sen.] Patty Murray — I spoke to her the other night — negotiations are making progress, moving in the right direction. They haven’t closed the deal, but I certainly hope, as part of it, that the negotiators will take to heart what the president had to say.”

President Obama, in his weekly address, called on Congress to extend unemployment benefits that are set to expire this month. If Congress doesn’t act before lawmakers leave on their holiday break, about 1.3 million unemployed Americans will see their benefits run out. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has estimated it would cost taxpayers about $26 billion to extend the benefits through next year.

Sen. Rob Portman, Ohio Republican, said he was hopeful that a deal could be reached by the end of this week but that the thought was the benefits would be handled separately.

“But look, the key is that we not have another government shutdown, that we do keep the spending caps in place, that we don’t raise taxes at a time when the economy is still weak,” Mr. Portman said. “And I think we can accomplish that over the next couple days.”

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