- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 9, 2014

Senate Democrats rewrote their unemployment benefit extension plan Thursday, ignoring Republicans’ pleas for a full debate and instead offering a take-it-or-leave-it proposal that would pay for nearly a year’s worth of additional benefits now by promising broad budget cuts more than a decade in the future.

The move sets up a final showdown on Monday, when Republicans are expected to filibuster the bill — ending, for now, the chances for a new round of benefits.

GOP senators said they’ve been given little choice by Democrats, who rewrote their bill behind closed doors and have rejected Republicans’ efforts to have input.

“It seems to me we could have had a good debate on that, and still should,” said Sen. Rob Portman, Ohio Republican. “My hope is that we can come up with a solution here. Let’s sit down and talk. We’re adults.”

Federal benefits for those who have gone months without a job expired for 1.3 million Americans on Dec. 28, and tens of thousands more lose benefits every week.

Democrats and many Republicans say they want to extend the federal program, but GOP senators have insisted the cost be offset by cuts elsewhere in the budget — known in Capitol-speak as a “pay-for.”

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, rejected the GOP’s ideas, saying they weren’t worth bringing to the floor for votes.

“I’ve been waiting here for more than 24 hours for a reasonable proposal from my Republican friends to pay for this. We don’t have one,” Mr. Reid said. “There comes a time when we have to move forward.”

Among the GOP proposals was a plan to prevent illegal immigrants from fraudulently collecting a child-tax credit. Mr. Portman also had a plan to stop people from collecting disability and unemployment insurance at the same time.

Democrats rejected both of those, but did write into their new bill a provision that would reduce the payments for someone who is getting both disability and unemployment.

The Democratic proposal would save about $1 billion, while Mr. Portman’s more aggressive plan would have saved more than $5 billion.

Several Republican senators offered amendments unrelated to unemployment benefits. Those amendments ranged from environmental regulations to Obamacare to immigration reform.

Mr. Reid said he would only consider Republican amendments he considered “serious.”

But Sen. Dan Coats, Indiana Republican, said it is not the majority leader’s job to accept or reject them. He said that should be decided by all 100 senators voting.

“I’m representing the people of Indiana. Their voice is shut down. I don’t even have the ability to offer an amendment that my constituents sent me here to do. They didn’t send me here just to be told to sit down and forget it,” Mr. Coats said on the floor Thursday.

Some Democrats had offered their own amendments to the bill.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal, Connecticut Democrat, introduced a measure to subsidize jobs for low-income workers and Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, New Hampshire Democrat, proposed attaching an unrelated measure to do away with military retirement pay cuts by ending offshore tax breaks.

Mr. Reid’s move means neither of those amendments will be allowed, either.

It’s likely the bill will lose all if not most of the six Republican senators who voted with Democrats on Monday to move the bill forward, making it unlikely to pass the Senate. Mr. Portman, one of the Republicans who joined with Democrats to head off a filibuster this week, said Mr. Reid’s move betrayed the GOP senators’ good-faith effort.

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