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Bipartisan unemployment extension deal reached in Senate

  |   March 13, 2014 at 5:07 PM
WASHINGTON, March 13 (UPI) -- A deal to extend expired unemployment benefits five months that includes offsets to pay for them was struck Thursday, a bipartisan group of U.S. senators said.

The proposal -- unveiled by five Democrats and five Republicans -- is paid for using a combination of offsets, includes extending "pension smoothing" provisions from the 2012 highway bill and extending customs user fees through 2024, Roll Call reported.

The bill also includes an additional offset allowing single-employer pension plans to prepay their flat rate premiums to the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp.

The group was led by Jack Reed, D-R.I., and Dean Heller, R-Nev., and included Republicans Rob Portman of Ohio and Mark Kirk of Illinois, who had voted to filibuster an unemployment extension in February, leaving Democrats one vote short.

Among other things, the plan would allow retroactive payments going back to Dec. 28, when Congress allowed emergency unemployment benefits to expire and would prohibit people making more than $1 million from obtaining benefits, the negotiators said in a release.

"Restoring this much needed economic lifeline will help job seekers, boost our economy, and provide a little certainty to families, businesses, and the markets that Congress is capable of coming together to do the right thing," Reed said.

"This deal extends these important benefits for five months, pays for them, and brings buy-in from both sides of the aisle," Heller said.

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, told Roll Call she was pleased the agreement was reached and said she expected it would attract GOP support.

"I'm pleased we have reached an agreement that will attract a sufficient number of Republican votes to provide a five month extension, retroactively that is fully paid for," she said.

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