Morning Action: Senate to Consider Unemployment Insurance After Recess

UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE. The Senate may consider unemployment insurance after the recess, and they expect to obtain a sufficient number of Republican votes (sub. req’d):

A bipartisan group of senators reached an agreement Thursday on a five-month extension of expanded jobless aid that appears to be headed toward passage later this month.

Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI) 9%, the top Democratic negotiator, and Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV) 55%, Reed’s GOP counterpart, announced a pact that would resume the unemployment benefits that expired at the end of 2013 and provide retroactive payments to those whose benefits were cut off. The five-month extension carries an estimated cost of about $9.7 billion, and participants said it was fully offset by spending cuts or revenue-raising measures.

Democrats earlier rejected Heller’s $9.7 billion proposal (S 2097) for a five-month extension of expanded unemployment compensation because of its offsets. They specifically attacked a key $3.2 billion offset that would deny full jobless aid to recipients of federal disability payments.

Democrats set aside efforts to move their own $12 billion proposal (S 2077) to extend expanded jobless aid for six months. That would have been offset through the use a rare procedural tool called directed scoring to capture savings from the new farm programs reauthorization (PL 113-79). Republicans had strongly opposed that approach to paying for an extension.

OBAMACARE.  Democrats and Obamacare supporters have come to the defense of President Obama’s delay of the individual mandate provision of the health care law for some individuals (sub. req’d):

Nonetheless, supporters also say the Obama administration’s recent pattern of implementation postponements preserves the overhaul’s fundamental architecture and will not have a major long-term impact. And some say the newest delay — which is the extension of a policy PresidentBarack Obama announced in November — may help smooth out the process for some Americans.

“There certainly are worse things than allowing more time to transition,” said Sara Rosenbaum, a professor at George Washington University’s School of Public Health and Health Services and a supporter of the overhaul. “The basic integrity of the law obviously remains.”

Ron Pollack, executive director of Families USA and a supporter of the law, dismissed that comparison. Cantor wants to fundamentally change the law’s architecture, which is not what Obama is doing, he argued.

The Heritage Foundation explains this delay is not really going to fix anything, and will in fact cause more confusion for consumers.

UKRAINE.  Senators are poised to act on a Ukraine assistance bill after next week’s recess (sub. req’d):

Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) 13%, filed cloture on the motion to proceed to the bill (S 2124) that would provide loan guarantees and $150 million in economic assistance to Ukraine. It also would impose sanctions and guarantee the International Monetary Fund has the resources to assist Ukraine.

Reid said action on the measure would be the first order of business when the Senate returns March 24 from its weeklong recess.

Reid filed cloture after Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY) 54%, objected to a request to set up a vote on passage of the measure. Barrasso said provisions in the bill that would change U.S. contributions to the IMF are unnecessary.

The bill would authorize a $63 billion increase to the U.S. contribution to the International Monetary Fund’s quota and rescind an equal amount from U.S. contributions to an IMF account set up after the 2008 financial crisis to provide stability.

Half the cost of the funding change, estimated by the Congressional Budget Office to be about $315 million, would be offset by rescissions in Defense Department procurement accounts. The other half would be paid for through rescissions in State Department accounts for international development and security assistance, as well as the Export-Import Bank’s subsidy appropriation.

The IMF quota increase would trigger changes agreed to in 2010 to give more power to developing countries, such as China, India and Brazil, and would double the IMF’s financial resources. However, the changes would not affect the United States’ dominant position at the fund, as it would still be the only country with enough shares to have an effective veto over decisions.

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