Two bills have been readied to be voted on in the Senate that directly affects the unemployed, especially those that are currently receiving benefits via the emergency extensions. H.R.4213, the so-called “Taxes and Benefits Bill,” which has failed to reach cloture four times already, and H.R.5618, which is a standalone bill that would address the unemployment issue without the added weight of Medicaid and other provisions that have tied up H.R.4213, are both ready to be presented for cloture of a bill to proceed votes. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has chosen H.R.4213 to precede H.R.5618, according to OpenCongress.org, even though H.R.4213 would take longer to get to the President’s desk for signing into law.
H.R.4213, the American Jobs and Closing Tax Loopholes Act of 2010, has failed to pass cloture four times, the last time by one vote (technically, two). With the appointment of Carte Goodwin to replace the late Senator Robert C. Byrd of West Virginia, Senator Reid believes that the Senate now has the 60 votes needed for cloture. H.R.4213 would extend benefits until November. The problem is, since H.R.4213 has seen so much revision in order for the Democrats to get at least minimal cooperation out of some Republicans (thus far netting them a total of two — Maine senators Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins) for passage, it would have to be sent back to the House of Representatives for reconciliation and a final passage vote before going to the President’s desk for signing into law.
Still, while awaiting the West Virginia senate seat appointment, the Democrats also positioned H.R.5618 for passage, offering the bill up for debate and objecting to it, according to OpenCongress.org, in order to get it ready for a Senate vote without debate delay. The bill is now ready for a formal Senate vote for cloture to proceed to bill, which is the first of two cloture votes. H.R.5618, the Restoration of Unemployment Compensation Act of 2010, is a standalone bill that also extends unemployment benefits until November. However, H.R.5618 does not extend the heretofore additional $25 per week Federal Additional Compensation bonus.
H.R.4213 is an umbrella bill that the Democrats have been attempting to get through Congress since May. It also has tax breaks and a Medicaid provision that could, if not passed soon, see thousands of state employees also become part of the unemployment picture. So, even though H.R.5618 is assured a quicker avenue to the desk of the President, H.R.4213 is the bill that the Democrats would like to get through, thus eliminating further debate on the other provisions in the overall bill.
Regardless of which bill the Senate finally passes for an unemployment benefits extension (and they will pass at least one more extension bill), there will no doubt be hundreds of thousands who were cut off from emergency funds at the beginning of June that have already lost homes, vehicles, and loans to default. Although each piece of legislation is designed to be retroactive and the amount of money going to the benefits recipients could be on the average of $2400 in retro payments, that money will arrive too late to save individuals who have been struggling for months and months to just juggle their bills, mortgages, and car loans.
And while the Senate will no doubt give itself a congratulatory slap on the back when one of the measures finally passes, they’ve already given many of their constituents, many of whom worked for years and decades paying taxes and simply need a helping hand (one which has never been denied since the 1950s), a cold slap to the face.