The House Ways and Means Committee Wednesday adopted a bill to extend jobless benefits to unemployed workers an additional 13 weeks and an additional 13 weeks in states where the unemployment rate exceeds 6 percent.
After fending off Republican amendments that would have diluted the scope of the bill, the committee voted 23-13 to send the bill to the House floor.
Negotiations were still under way with House and Senate leaders on whether to incorporate the bill in a must-pass war funding bill that is likely to come to the floor next month.
That would enable Democrats to skirt pay/go rules that could require offsets to pay for a $12 billion reduction in a federal unemployment compensation trust fund.
The jobless pay bill, according to its sponsor, Ways and Means Income Security Subcommittee Chairman Jim McDermott, D-Wash., could be the first element in a second economic stimulus package that might later include expansion of food stamp benefits, more money for federal infrastructure projects, and assistance to cash-strapped states struggling with higher Medicaid costs.
In passing the bill, the Ways and Means panel rejected an amendment by Rep. Jerry Weller, R-Ill., that would have confined jobless benefits to states that have a least a 6 percent unemployment rate.
That amendment was defeated by a 24-13 margin after Rep. Sander Levin, D-Mich., argued that benefits would be denied to states with lower jobless rates but with high pockets of unemployment in certain counties or metropolitan areas.
An amendment by Ways and Means ranking member Jim McCrery to require 20 weeks of continuous full-time employment in order to qualify for benefits was narrowly defeated, 20-16. Another Weller amendment that would authorize states to set up national wage insurance “demonstration” programs was rejected 21-15.