Senators to Grapple with Unemployment Insurance

Posted June 13, 2008 at 2:46pm

The Senate will begin another debate on renewable energy tax extenders next week, but the larger battle will likely be over unemployment insurance.

A Democratic aide said the Senate will probably take up the measure to extend unemployment insurance possibly as soon as Wednesday.

Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said Friday that he would seek unanimous consent to bring a stand-alone unemployment insurance measure straight to the floor. Spurred by high unemployment rates, the House passed such a bill last week.

However, even Reid agrees that coaxing GOP Senators to support such a stand-alone measure is unlikely.

Unemployment insurance had already been placed in the Senate’s version of the Iraq War spending bill, and Democratic leaders would likely seek that route again, arguing that it would fast-track it to the president’s desk. If the measure fails to move on its own, Reid said he would likely seek to move it again in the war supplemental.

If the stand-alone unemployment insurance bill fails, Senators could turn to the war supplemental bill this week, a Reid aide said.

But even before the Senate gets to unemployment insurance, it must grapple with a second debate on renewable energy tax extenders. Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.), who is offering the language, took out some unrelated provisions that irked GOP lawmakers, including one that allowed lawyers to deduct pre-trial fees.

Democratic aides are hopeful that the concessions made by Baucus will attract enough GOP support to advance debate.

The Senate could also move on a housing package that addresses struggling homeowners. An aide to Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Chairman Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) said a compromise with Republicans is still in the works but would likely come to fruition.