Even as unemployment benefits expired Monday for thousands of Americans, Democrats and Republicans renewed their haggling over whether to approve an extension when Congress returns from its spring break next week.
In the latest round of skirmishing, Senate Democrats rejected Republican claims that they had backed away from a GOP proposal to give quick approval to a one-week extension that would be paid for with budget offsets.
“There were a lot of conversations going on and things were moving very quickly, but no deals were made,” said Jim Manley, a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.
At the heart of the dispute over extending jobless benefits is the question of how to pay for them.
Two weeks ago, when the Senate took up the question, Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., objected that the $9 billion measure that had been approved by the House would add to the federal deficit.
Coburn’s objection was similar to the one Sen. Jim Bunning, R-Ky., raised earlier in the year over another extension that was not offset. But unlike before, failure to extend the benefits that expired Monday meant 212,000 unemployed people will lose benefits this week, according to data provided by the National Employment Law Project.
The GOP objection raised the specter of a filibuster, and Democrats do not have a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate.
Democrats in both the House and Senate want the extension to be classified as “emergency spending,” which can be added to the deficit and does not have to be paid for with specific cuts or new revenue.
Republicans have objected.