WASHINGTON, March 27 (UPI) -- The Senate took another step towards passing an extension on emergency unemployment insurance Thursday, voting to begin debate on the bipartisan bill that would extend insurance for long-term jobless for five months.
10 Republicans joined with all 55 members of the Democratic caucus to support moving the bill forward: Sens. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, Dan Coats of Indiana, Susan Collins of Maine, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Rob Portman of Ohio, Pat Toomey or Pennsylvania, Bob Corker of Tennessee, Mark Kirk of Illinois and Dean Heller of Nevada.
Heller, along with Jack Reed, D-R.I., led the bipartisan group of 10 senators who hashed out the deal that would not only extend payment of emergency unemployment benefits for five months, but also would retroactively pay out benefits to those long-term jobless whose payments were cut off when insurance expired in December.
Majority leader Harry Reid said the Senate would formally take up the bill Monday evening.
But despite bipartisan support in the Senate, the bill faces a significant stumbling block in House Speaker John Boehner, who last week indicated his unwillingness to take up the bill. The Ohio Republican cited concerns from state workforce agencies, who said the requirements of the Senate bill would place too-high burdens on their offices.
Supporters of the bill have called Boehner's concern "an excuse."
Should the measure pass, the $10 billion cost would be offset by an expansion of fees on goods coming through U.S. Customs and a change in how corporations pay into pensions. The legislation also increases job training requirements for beneficiaries and prohibits benefits to those who made $1 million in the previous year.