Sens. Jack Reed, D-R.I., and Dean Heller, R-Nev., reintroduced on Tuesday a bill that would extend benefits for five months to those who have been unemployed for more than 26 weeks. Unlike the previous legislation that passed the Senate in April, the benefits would not be paid out retroactively, but individuals who had benefits would start with the same number of weeks remaining as when the previous extension expired at the end of December.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has said he will bring the bill up for a vote as soon as Heller is able to round up the votes of enough Republicans to put the measure beyond filibuster.
Heller also bears the weight of convincing Republican leadership in the House to allow a vote on mirror legislation introduced Wednesday by Reps. Dan Kildee, D-Mich., and Frank LoBiondo, R-N.J. At the third weekly Witness Wednesday event at the Capitol earlier in the day, Kildee and Rep. David Cicilline, D-R.I., led a group of House Democrats highlighting the plight of some 300,000 veterans who are among the 3 million Americans who lost benefits on December 28.
"I can understand that to my Republican colleagues, this is not an emergency for them," said Rep. Joe Crowley, D-N.Y. "But for the people who are suffering right now, this is the ultimate emergency."
Cicilline, joined by nine other House Democrats, sent a letter to Majority Leader-elect Kevin McCarthy, pressing him to meet to discuss the issue.
"We hope that you will take advantage of this opportunity and sit down with us to discuss how we can work together to provide relief to the long-term unemployed," the letter said. "At a time when so many families all across the country are struggling to make ends meet, we should be doing everything we can to provide assistance to Americans who continue to look for work."
A spokesman for Cicilline's office said they had yet to receive a response from McCarthy by mid-afternoon Thursday. UPI has reached out to McCarthy's office for comment.