by Olivera Perkins
CLEVELAND, Ohio — A bill extending unemployment insurance stalled Wednesday in the U.S. Senate, potentially leaving nearly 100,000 Ohioans without benefits by month’s end.
A dozen Democrats joined Republicans on a key 52-45 vote rejecting a $140 billion package of unemployment benefits, aid to states, tax breaks for businesses and families, and Medicare payments for doctors because it would swell the federal debt by $80 billion.
Later Wednesday, Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus of Montana unveiled a slimmer version of the bill that he predicted would “provide a path forward.” A vote on that bill could occur this week.
Both Ohio senators voted along party lines.
In a news conference after the vote, Sen. Sherrod Brown, a Democrat, expressed concern at the bill’s defeat.
“Every day that Americans don’t receive the unemployment insurance they’re due is another day more American workers and families slip into poverty,” he said.
“Most of the Republicans who voted ‘no’ on continuation of unemployment insurance don’t have any friends who are unemployed,” Brown said. “They don’t get out enough and see the suffering in this country when people lose their jobs.”
Republican Sen. George Voinovich said he voted against the bill because too many disparate programs had been rolled into it.
“I just think they’ve souped this thing up with a bunch of stuff that shouldn’t be there. If it is, they should pay for it,” Voinovich told Dow Jones wire service. He was not available for further comment.
Voinovich supported the last extension in March, a bill that contained fewer other programs. Only 12 of the nearly 400 pages in Wednesday’s defeated bill dealt with unemployment, his office said.
In May, the House narrowly passed — by 215-204 — a bill that would have extended unemployment benefits until November. All of the Northeast Ohio delegation supported the measure.
Concerns about the deficit caused the slim victory. The extension would cost about $40 billion. House members also raised concerns about the number of extensions approved so far. Congress has extended unemployment benefits four times since 2008, and the latest proposal would tie for a record five.
Unemployed Ohioans can receive benefits for up to 99 weeks: 26 weeks of “regular” state unemployment, followed by 53 weeks of federal extended unemployment benefits and an additional 20 weeks of extended state benefits, which are federally funded. The extension under consideration does not apply to people who have reached 99 weeks.
Anyone whose regular state benefits expire after May 22 will not be eligible for the additional weeks unless Congress approves an extension. People who already have extended benefits would get no additional ones when their current benefits expire after May 29. This includes those who exhaust benefits in June as well as potentially 333,000 Ohioans who claimed at least a week of benefits within the last month.
Story Compliments Of the Plain Dealer