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Unemployment Insurance Showdown Set Between House, Senate

The Senate expects to press forward on passing its version of an extension of insurance benefits for the long-term unemployed this week, despite strong opposition from House Speaker John Boehner.

The Ohio Republican slammed the Senate deal, announced earlier this month by a bipartisan group of 10 Senators, citing a letter from the National Association of State Workforce Agencies saying the deal would be difficult to implement.

The deal would extend emergency unemployment compensation for five months, as well as retroactively paying those benefits to qualified unemployed back through the end of December, when benefits lapsed.

Nevada Senator Dean Heller (R-Nev.), the main Republican leading the deal, accused Boehner of searching for any reason to sink the extension.

It is “extremely disappointing that, no matter what solution is reached, there is some excuse to deny these much-needed benefits,” Heller said.

And Secretary of Labor Tom Perez, in a letter sent to Senate leaders Friday, dismissed NASWA’s concerns as solvable and not a reason to delay legislation.

“I am confident there are workable solutions for all of the concerns raised by NASWA,” Perez wrote, citing his experience as Labor Secretary of Maryland and promising to instruct his department to work with its state counterparts to ensure smooth implementation of payments. “We are certain that any challenges pale in comparison to the need that the long-term unemployed have for these benefits.”

Meanwhile, House leadership says it would rather focus on job-creating measures, rather than supporting those who aren’t working.

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