Breakthrough: Senate Reaches Deal On Jobless Benefits

The Senate reached a bipartisan deal on Thursday to revive emergency jobless benefits for five months and permits retroactive payments to those who lost it on Dec. 28, according to top aides familiar with the agreement.

It’s paid for with a policy known as “pension smoothing” (which both parties have supported in the past but critics have bashed as a budgetary sleight of hand), an extension of custom user fees through 2024 and a provision that lets single-employer pension plans prepay their premiums.

The agreement was struck by Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI) and Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV). It’ll be sponsored by Sens. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Susan Collins (R-ME), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Rob Portman (R-OH), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Mark Kirk (R-IL).

That includes five Republicans who can help Democrats get to 60 votes and break a filibuster if the 55-member caucus votes together.

Even if the bill gets through the Senate, it’ll be tough sell in the Republican-led House, where GOP leaders have signaled that they don’t want to revive the lapsed program.

The proposal will have a provision to end jobless benefit payments to those with adjusted gross income of $1 million or more in the previous year.

Nonpartisan economists say unemployment benefits tend to be a very effective way to stimulate a weak economy.

(Correction: An earlier version of this article misstated the name of a senator who struck the deal. It is Sen. Jack Reed, not Harry Reid. We regret the error.)

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