Senate negotiators toiled for months to revive long-term unemployment benefits in a manner that could draw the support of both centrist Republicans and liberal Democrats. But in a few days, that effort will be all for naught.
The jobless aid bill that narrowly passed the Senate in early April would extend the benefits to June 1 — but barring a surprise breakthrough, there’s almost no chance the House will take up that legislation or an alternative of its own during the last two weeks of May.
So, the lack of agreement between the two chambers is sending the bill’s chief sponsors back to square one — with several Republicans doubting the Senate has the stamina to find billions more dollars to pay for a longer-term bill and then persuade the House to pass it.
“I’m worried,” said Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine). “Because with each passing day, it’s going to become more difficult to reinstate the program. And in the meantime, we’re going to start seeing another wave of individuals who will lose their benefits.”
Complicating things further is the Senate’s partisan deadlock over GOP demands for amendment votes from an unbending Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), an ugly war that has killed two bills recently that are far less controversial than a pricey extension of unemployment benefits.