Ten senators, including members of both parties, have reached a deal extending by five months long-term unemployment insurance benefits that have already expired. Over two million Americans would be affected. The retroactive payments would be marked from December 28, 2013 to the end of May 2014.
However, there’s a trick involved: although liberal GOP Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) said the aid would be “paid for,” the cost, roughly $10 billion, would be offset partly by “pension smoothing,” an accounting trick in which a timing shift is used in calculating the pension interest rate. Both the conservative Heritage Foundation and the leftist Center on Budget and Policy Priorities have called it a gimmick.
Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI), the head negotiator, said, “We’re not at the finish line yet, but this is a bipartisan breakthrough.” The bill has to pass the Democrat-led Senate and then pass the GOP-led House, which seems unlikely. All the Democrats must vote for the bill along with five Republicans for it to reach the 60 votes it needs in the Senate. Five GOP senators already back the bill: Sens. Rob Portman (R-OH), Dean Heller (R-NV), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Susan Collins (R-ME), and Mark Kirk (R-IL).
The deal would end federal unemployment insurance payments to those whose adjusted gross income in 2013 was $1 million or more. It also will fortify reemployment and eligibility assessment (REA) and ReEmployment Services (RES) programs.