After the Senate failed three times last week to pass the mammoth tax extenders and unemployment benefits extension bill last week, the House and Senate have introduced stand-alone bills to extend unemployment benefits.

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Sander Levin, D-Mich., and Income Security and Family Support Subcommittee Chairman Jim McDermott, D-Wash., introduced H.R. 5618, the Restoration of Emergency Unemployment Compensation Act, on Monday to extend unemployment insurance benefits to millions of Americans.

However, the bill was defeated later in the day with Republicans opposing the bill. “We will persevere,” said Levin. “We will bring this bill up again under regular order and it will pass. Today’s vote should make it abundantly clear to the American people that the Democratic majority in Congress remains committed to providing the benefits and assistance families need while we continue efforts to recover from this recession.”


The Senate was unable to pass the American Jobs and Closing Tax Loopholes Act of 2010 last week after three attempts to overcome a Republican filibuster (see Senate Again Fails to Pass Tax Extenders Bill). The legislation extended about 50 expired tax breaks, including the research credit and the ability to deduct state and local sales taxes. It also would have extended unemployment benefits through the end of November and provided aid to states facing cuts in Medicaid funding, among other provisions.

However, the bill also contained controversial provisions raising taxes on the carried interest of hedge fund managers and private equity firm partners, as well as on certain types of professional services firms set up as S corporations and on multinational corporations using foreign tax credits to shift income abroad. Republicans argued that the bill was not fully paid for and would add $33 billion to the deficit.

The new bill introduced in the House would not include the tax provisions but would extend benefits for the long-term unemployed as emergency spending. An estimated 1.7 million workers will have lost their unemployment benefits by the end of this week as a result of the failure to extend benefits.

“This is an emergency," said Levin. "I really can't believe that Republicans are going to come here and vote ‘no.’ They're voting ‘no’ for millions. They're voting ‘no’ for what I think is best for the United States of America. We are a community of people. When people lose their jobs and can't find them, we don't simply stand idly by. This is the time for Republicans to stand up, and the only way to stand up is to vote ‘yes.’ I plead on behalf of the millions of people in this country out of work looking for jobs that Republicans stand with us to provide the unemployment insurance that Americans have worked for and that should be provided. Don’t turn your backs on them. In the end there will be no excuse.”

H.R. 5618 would extend the Emergency Unemployment Compensation and Extended Benefits programs through Nov. 30, 2010.  The legislation would retroactively restore benefits to recipients who may have started losing their benefits as early as the end of May.

The bill also includes two beneficiary protections: the continuation of a rule that conditions state eligibility to offer federal unemployment benefits on an assurance that the state is not cutting the level of regular unemployment benefits; and a safeguard included in a jobs package already passed by the House that prevents Emergency Unemployment Compensation claimants from having their benefits cut if their intermittent earnings re-qualifies them for regular state unemployment benefits, which may provide lower payments because the claimant’s more recent wages were lower.

Unlike the House jobs package, however, the legislation does not include an extension of the Federal Additional Compensation program, which increases all unemployment insurance benefits by $25 a week.

In the Senate, Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., also introduced legislation Monday to extend unemployment benefits. The bill, S.3520, the Unemployment Insurance Extension Act of 2010, is co-sponsored by Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio; Al Franken, D-Minn.; and Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I. It includes the $25 supplement and extends unemployment benefits through the end of the year.

The bill could  attract support from at least two Republicans, Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine.

Another Senate bill to extend unemployment benefits was introduced Tuesday evening by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont. It would extend the Emergency Unemployment Compensation program through November.

The bill also contains a provision extending the closing date for the Homebuyer Tax Credit for buyers who entered into a binding contract by April 30, 2010 and close on the home by Oct. 1, 2010. A similar provision passed in the House on Tuesday (see House Extends Deadline for Homebuyer Tax Credit).