- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 13, 2014

Senators said Thursday they have reached a deal on a bill to renew federal unemployment benefits for the long-term jobless, announcing a bipartisan agreement that appears likely to have enough votes to clear a filibuster.

The deal would provide five months of benefits, which would provide immediate relief for the 2 million who have seen their long-term benefits expire since the federal program ran out on Dec. 28.

“We’re not at the finish line yet, but this is a bipartisan breakthrough,” said Sen. Jack Reed, the Rhode Island Democrat who has pushed for the bill.

Senate Republicans had filibustered several earlier versions, arguing they either weren’t paid for or that Democrats had resorted to budget gimmicks.

The new proposal would cover the cost of the bill by extending what’s known as “pension-smoothing” — a measure that allows companies to delay pension payments now, which means they end up paying more in taxes over the next decade. But eventually they will have to make good on the pension payments, meaning the government would eventually lose that money.

Some in the GOP say that still constitutes a gimmick.

But the new agreement has five GOP co-sponsors, which combined with all 55 Democratic Caucus members in the Senate should be enough to overcome a filibuster.

Even if the bill does clear the Senate, it faces a troubled path in the House, where Speaker John A. Boehner has said any unemployment benefit bill would have to be coupled with pro-job growth policies.

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