Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

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January 14, 2014

Test votes postponed on unemployment bill

(Continued)

Officials said Heller and Collins recommended making quick offsetting cuts elsewhere in the budget to make sure deficits don't rise as a result of the jobless legislation. After initially proposing to let deficits rise as unemployment benefits were paid out, Democrats late last week recommending extending existing cuts already in effect in some benefit programs by one year, until 2024. They included a 2 percent reduction in fees paid to hospitals and other Medicare providers — a proposal that Heller and Collins did not put in their own offer.

Also at issue is the duration of any new program.

Democrats called for an 11-month bill late last week, while Heller and Collins proposed three months instead.

The officials who described the proposals spoke on condition of anonymity, saying they were not authorized to discuss them on the record. Aides to Heller and Collins refused to provide confirmation.

The mood was testy earlier in the day, when Reid said Republicans "have been very effective at creating gridlock" and "obsessed with taking pot shots" at the health care law.

A few moments later, McConnell blamed Democrats for the hold-up that has blocked action on the legislation to date.

Until the weekend, he said, Reid "only seemed to want to extend this program — without really paying for it, without doing much of anything to help create private sector job creation and without creating opportunities for targeted training" for the unemployed.

Under the expired program, the long-term jobless were entitled to a maximum of 47 additional weeks of benefits, depending on the unemployment level in their states. Under a revised bill Reid advanced late last week, the total would fall to a maximum of 31 weeks.

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