With unemployment insurance beginning to expire today and 2 million out-of-work Americans scheduled to stop receiving the benefits by the end of December, Congress is facing significant pressure to extend the benefits again.
Republicans have been pushing for any extension to be offset by spending cuts elsewhere in the budget. Now Sen. Scott Brown (R., Mass.) has introduced legislation that would use unspent federal funds to pay for the extension.
“My idea is a bipartisan compromise proposal; it is something that we should all be able to rally around,” said Brown in a video press release. “I am confident that if we work together, we can not only extend the benefits to the millions of workers who need them, but we can do so without increasing taxes or adding to our deficit.”
The federal government spent $160 billion on unemployment insurance in the 2010 fiscal year. Another year-long extension is estimated to cost $56.4 billion.
Last night, a voice vote to extend unemployment insurance failed in the senate. When Brown suggested unspent funds be used to pay for the measure, Sen. Jack Reed (D., R.I.) argued against the use of the funds, saying, “If you burrow down into those funds, they are from a category of programs that could be spent to help the economy move forward.”
Sen. Dick Durbin (D., Ill.) has suggested that Democrats only agree to extend the Bush tax cuts if Republicans agree to extend unemployment insurance.