News Column

Tough Fight Looms Over Unemployment Benefits

January 6, 2014

Todd Spangler, Detroit Free Press

Jan. 06--WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Senate -- expected back in the nation's capital today after the long holiday break -- could vote later on a 3-month extension of a program providing extra unemployment benefits to 1.3 million Americans.

That program, known as Emergency Unemployment Compensation or EUC, ended Dec. 28 but Democrats have made passing another extension a priority. About 45,000 Michiganders lost EUC benefits when the program ended.

Today's vote, expected early this evening, is a procedural one, but it is important: It will tell whether there are enough Republicans in support to cross the needed 60-vote threshold to move forward with an extension.

Democrats are believed to have 56 votes in favor --including that of Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., a co-sponsor of the extension -- but it is unclear if there are four more Republican votes to cross the procedural hurdle. In the House, Republican leaders have said they would only consider another extension if its cost -- about $25-billion a year -- is made up somehow, throwing it into doubt in that chamber no matter how the vote goes in the Senate today.

The conservative Club for Growth today urged senators to vote against moving forward on the bill and said the vote will be included in its annual scorecard, putting pressure on Republicans to reject it. Meanwhile, President Barack Obama -- who supports the extension -- is expected to speak on it from the White House on Tuesday.

Some Republicans have argued that EUC was meant to be a temporary program in the wake of the 2008-09 recession and that it has done too little in sparking job growth to warrant another extension.


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Original headline: U.S. Senate could vote on unemployment benefits extension today, tough fight expected in House

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