Partisan bickering at a House Rules Committee hearing Monday night reportedly stalled a House vote expected Tuesday on a new measure that, among other things, would extend eligibility for unemployment insurance benefits and a federal COBRA subsidy program.
House members likely won’t vote on the spending bill until Wednesday, and the Senate is expected to vote on it later this week.
Last week, Ways and Means Committee Chairman Sander Levin, D-Mich., and Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., unveiled a legislative package that would extend tax cuts, small business loans, eligibility for unemployment insurance, and COBRA tax credits through the end of this year.
Congress has approved four extensions so far for the COBRA premium assistance program – a 65 percent health insurance premium subsidy for up to 15 months for workers who have been involuntarily terminated. Under current law, eligibility for the program will expire after May 31.
The bill – The American Jobs and Closing Tax Loopholes Act of 2010 – would extend eligibility for the program for individuals terminated on or before Dec. 31. The provision is estimated to cost $7.799 billion over 10 years.
The bill also calls for the extension of certain unemployment benefits provided at the federal level, including the Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC) program, which is scheduled to phase out by the end of May. The EUC program provides up to 53 weeks of extended benefits. The bill would extend the EUC program through December.
Eligibility for federal unemployment benefits will expire unless both the House and the Senate pass the bill by June 2. Lawmakers have until Friday to vote on the bill before their scheduled Memorial Day recess.
If Congress fails to pass another extension before their upcoming recess, the National Employment Law Project estimates about 1.2 million jobless workers could be cut off from federal unemployment benefits next month.