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Bunning II: The Rebunninging?

I noted this on Monday, that Senate Democrats would need to tee up another short-term extension of a variety of expiring provisions, including unemployment and COBRA benefits, before leaving for the March 26 recess. Walter Alarkon at The Hill picks it up:

Congress’s last extension of unemployment benefits and COBRA health insurance subsidies for the unemployed expires on April 5. With a 9.7 percent jobless rate and lawmakers scheduled to begin a two-week recess this weekend, congressional Democrats said another short-term extension is necessary soon.

Senate Democrats will bring up a temporary extension of jobless benefits after they finish work this week on the healthcare reconciliation bill, said Regan LaChapelle, a spokeswoman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.).

Initially, it was suggested to me that Reid would try for this before the reconciliation debate, but that didn’t happen. It appears that the move is to go for the UI/COBRA extension at the last minute, right before the recess, to jam Republicans who would otherwise want to go home for two weeks.

The Senate and the House have passed bills that would extend both unemployment insurance and the 65% COBRA subsidy until the end of the year, but a conference committee will be needed to iron out differences before that becomes law.

Last time, Jim Bunning objected to the extension and pushed it past the expiration date, arguing that the funding be offset. Republicans are already stating that they’ll make the same argument, despite the hammering Bunning and the GOP took during last month’s debate. Minority Whip Jon Kyl said yesterday, “I think it’s going to have to be paid for.” Kyl already objected to unanimous consent for the extension last Friday, saying he hadn’t discussed this with the GOP caucus.

Expect another round of fun with Republican cruelty toward the unemployed. And Reid might want to file cloture now, just to start the clock on that, because Republicans don’t appear to be in a mood to cooperate.

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David Dayen

David Dayen