Senate Republicans released their own legislation to extend unemployment-insurance benefits Thursday evening, undercutting a separate effort offered by Sen. Jack Reed that has the support of Democratic leadership.
The Republican plan would extend the benefits, which kick in after an individual has been unemployed for at least 26 weeks, for five months including retroactive benefits. If passed immediately by both chambers, the new benefits would expire again for all beneficiaries in late May while Congress works to find a longer-term solution. In other words, those who hit the 26-week quota before the extension is made law would get far less than five months of benefits.
Significantly, the proposal would require beneficiaries to accept any offer of "suitable work" or any position recommended to them by a state employment agency.
The new proposal is cosponsored by the very Republican senators that Democrats have been lobbying to support their own bill, potentially putting Reed's six-month extension on ice. They are Sens. Dean Heller of Nevada, Susan Collins of Maine, Rob Portman of Ohio, Dan Coats of Illinois, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, and Mark Kirk of Illinois. Heller, in particular, has been working with Reed and other Senate Democrats for months to reinstate the benefits.