Next Jobless Move

Trying to do something other than short term extensions of jobless and COBRA health benefits, Democrats this afternoon hope to get the Senate to vote for an extension through the end of May, while also eyeing a longer term solution.

The original bill would only extend benefits until early May - which is just a few weeks away.

This would not only give Democrats a little more breathing room, but also give them a chance to push through an extension through the end of the year, getting the issue off the table.

"Unemployment benefits are essential to bridging the gap between losing one job and finding another," said Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT).  

"And it has become increasingly difficult to find that next job."

None of these plans would pay for the extra benefits - which run about $9-$10 billion a month - with offsetting budget cuts, as called for by Republicans in recent weeks.

""The best unemployment benefit is a job," argued Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK), who has led the charge to make cutbacks to pay for these benefits, saying the idea of adding even more to the national debt is not a sound one.

"An economy with as much debt as ours simply can't create jobs at the rate we need them," Coburn added.

The debate over these unemployment insurance extensions will continue both on and off the Senate floor today, as a panel chaired by Baucus will hold a hearing on how to improve the current system.

Senators will hear from a Labor Department official, along with a state employment commissioner and economist Mark Zandi, who seems likely to be asked whether there are better ways to spur the economy than extended jobless benefits.

If Democrats do change the date of the jobless benefits extension in the Senate, then that bill will have to go back to the House for another vote, maybe by late this week.

Trying to do something other than short term extensions of jobless and COBRA health benefits, Democrats this afternoon hope to get the Senate to vote for an extension through the end of May, while also eyeing a longer term solution. The original bill would only extend benefits until early May ...