Jobless Insurance Talks Break Down As Key Republican Bolts

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Bad news for the long-term unemployed: Senate negotiations to revive jobless benefits broke down Thursday afternoon as the top Republican negotiator backed away from an emerging deal.

As an 11-month bipartisan agreement was coming together Thursday, Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) took to the floor to criticize Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) for denying GOP amendments to the legislation.

“I’m disappointed in that because I think we were very close to reaching an agreement,” Portman said, “which would have enabled us to move forward with allowing senators on both sides of the aisle to offer some of their ideas on the unemployment insurance extension. … Let me just say, this is unfortunate because we had 60 votes to proceed.”

An exasperated Reid, who used a tactic to prevent the minority from offering amendments to the bill, complained that Republicans were using the occasion to push bad-faith amendments to damage Obamacare.

“Nothing is ever quite good enough,” said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV).

Portman also said Reid scaled back the offset he pushed to prevent people from wrongly obtaining both unemployment benefits and Social Security Disability Insurance at once. “There is an important difference between what was just offered in the new Democrat proposal and what is in my proposal,” he said, arguing that Reid modified his proposed offset without telling him.

Meanwhile, senior Democratic aides accused Portman of trying to find an excuse to scuttle the agreement.

“They’re finding a way to bail out,” said one aide.

“They seem to be unable to take yes for an answer,” said a second aide.

It’s not clear what happens next but Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said he hopes the discussions will “be put back together over the weekend.”

“I don’t think it’s irreparable at this point,” he told reporters. “I think it’s in much worse shape than it was three hours ago.”

This article has been updated.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sahil Kapur is TPM's senior congressional reporter and Supreme Court correspondent. His articles have been published in the Huffington Post, The Guardian and The New Republic. Email him at sahil@talkingpointsmemo.com and follow him on Twitter at @sahilkapur.
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