After another day of talks, two of the leading senators involved in the negotiations to extend unemployment-insurance benefits expressed optimism Tuesday about the possibility of a deal.
That agreement, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said, would likely extend the benefits for six months, rather than the three months Republicans initially pushed for. However, the legislation will be retroactive, giving those on unemployment a lump sum for the amount they missed after benefits expired on Dec. 28 and new checks likely through late June.
Asked when he expects to bring an agreement to the floor, Reid said: “Soon. I had some good conversations today.”
Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., who has cosponsored several bills to reinstate the program, also sounded upbeat on Tuesday. “I think something’s going to happen,” Heller said, though he was less certain about the timing. “I don’t know about this week, but we’re working on it.”
Democrats need one more Republican to join them in voting for the extension, after a previous bill failed to get cloture earlier this month. Currently, members have their eyes on Sens. Mark Kirk of Illinois, Rob Portman of Ohio, and Dan Coats of Indiana.
Heller spoke with the Democrats’ top target, Kirk, about the issue Tuesday. “I had a good long talk with Dean Heller today about this very subject, about the length of time and how we pay for it and how we bring the gimmicks out of any pay-for,” Kirk said.
Asked whether he preferred a short-term extension, such as a three-or-six-month patch, Kirk said: “Obviously, from my viewpoint the less cost, the better.”
Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, who voted in favor of the last bill to extend the benefits and has been involved in the talks, agreed that a short-term solution is best. Asked whether a long-term extension, perhaps for a year, was a possibility, Collins repeatedly shook her head.
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Much has been made of David Brooks’s recent New York Times column, in which confesses to missing already the civility and humanity of Barack Obama, compared to who might take his place. In NewYorker.com, Jeffrey Frank reminds us how critical such attributes are to foreign policy. “It’s hard to imagine Kennedy so casually referring to the leader of Russia as a gangster or a thug. For that matter, it’s hard to imagine any president comparing the Russian leader to Hitler [as] Hillary Clinton did at a private fund-raiser. … Kennedy, who always worried that miscalculation could lead to war, paid close attention to the language of diplomacy.”
“We haven’t seen a true leftist since FDR, so many millions are coming out of the woodwork to vote for Bernie Sanders; he is the Occupy movement now come to life in the political arena.” So says Bill Maher in his Hollywood Reporter cover story (more a stream-of-consciousness riff than an essay, actually). Conservative states may never vote for a socialist in the general election, but “this stuff has never been on the table, and these voters have never been activated.” Maher saves most of his bile for Donald Trump and Sarah Palin, writing that by nominating Palin as vice president “John McCain is the one who opened the Book of the Dead and let the monsters out.” And Trump is picking up where Palin left off.