Thursday, Dec. 19, 2013 | 10:49 a.m.
If Congress restores funding for extended unemployment benefits, it will likely do so following Nevada Sen. Dean Heller’s script.
The Republican has been getting a lot of powerful Democratic endorsements for a bill to extend unemployment benefits for three months that he co-authored with Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., in the two days since they introduced the legislation.
White House Senior Adviser Valerie Jarrett said Wednesday that President Barack Obama and his team “strongly support it...We think it’s very important; we think they’ve made a very good case for it.”
She said the president would do his part to help “galvanize support for it.”
And today, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid told reporters he was “pleased and proud of my colleague Sen. Dean Heller” for introducing “a good bill; and it deserves a vote.”
Since Budget Committee chairs Sen. Patty Murray and Rep. Paul Ryan struck a deal that omitted an extension of emergency federal unemployment benefits, Reid has been repeating a pledge to force a debate on the issue when the Senate returns to Washington in January.
Funding for the federally backed benefits available to jobless workers unemployed for 26 weeks or more are set to expire Dec. 28. A one-year extension — which is what Democratic lawmakers had initially hoped to include — would have cost about $25 billion.
Heller’s bill would also retroactively restore missed benefit checks for those who continue to file claims during the interruption.
Nevada’s delegation had pressed hard for an extension of emergency unemployment benefits, available for greater lengths of time to jobless workers in states with the worst unemployment rates. Nevadans are eligible for the maximum 73 weeks.
“Providing a safety net for those in need is one of the most important functions of the federal government,” Heller said in a statement. “As Nevada’s unemployment rate continues to top the charts nationwide, many families and individuals back home do not know how they are going to meet their basic needs.”
The likelihood that the legislation could pass is high in the Senate, where support for an extension among Democrats is all but universal, and a handful of Republican senators from hard-hit states also could get board.
The prognosis is less certain in the House, where many Republicans believe the extra tiers of benefits should be reduced or allowed to expire.