The Senate will vote today on whether or not it will advance a bipartisan bill that offers a three-month extension of emergency longer-term unemployment benefits for the roughly 1.3 million long-term unemployed.
The extended unemployment program started in 2008, a program intended to help jobless people after they exhausted state benefits.
Although the extended benefits typically last six months (26 weeks in most states), at one point they provided as much as 99 weeks of additional federally-funded emergency relief, and it has been renewed 11 times since it was put in place by President George W. Bush..
But the program expired on Dec. 28, 2013, and nine days later, it’s still unclear whether the legislation has enough votes to pass the bill.
“Never with unemployment like this have we even considered not extending them,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”
“It’s the right thing to do,” said Reid, adding that an extension would have the effect of pouring money into purchased goods and service, bolstering the gross domestic product by $23 billion.
Senate Democrats have been working to reach a compromise with Republicans on extending the benefits for three months– part of a broader economic agenda Democrats are pushing in the new year that also includes raising the minimum wage.
The Congressional Budget Office estimates that an extension of unemployment benefits will cost about $6.5 billion. Republicans say they will consider supporting the bill to extend the benefits. But only if Democrats find a way to pay for it.