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Posted at 2:54 p.m. on March 13, 2014
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., had said he was hopeful that a bipartisan agreement on extending unemployment benefits could be announced as soon as today — but with a Senate vote still a few weeks away.
“Progress really has been made on it,” Reid said during a press conference with the other top three Democrats. “We are really, really close to having a bipartisan bill to extend unemployment benefits for people who are in badly need of help.”
Reid said that he was hopeful that a deal could be announced “as early as today or tomorrow and we could work on it when we get back,” Reid continued. The Senate will be on recess next week.
He was reluctant to provide any details because a bipartisan group of Senators are still in negotiations. Reid did however say that measure would likely extend benefits for the long-term unemployed for five months.
The most recent Democratic proposal had sought a six-month extension that would be offset by savings from the farm bill.
Republicans have since offered a five-month extension with a variety of offsets and changes to the program.
Other business that is expected to be addressed after the weeklong recess — which is expected to begin this evening — is an aid package for Ukraine and a Democratic bill that would raise the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, which will likely be opposed by Republicans. He added that a House-passed flood insurance bill will also likely be on the floor after the recess.
Democratic leaders also said they hope to pursue more bipartisan legislation as well, including sentencing reform proposals, a package of manufacturing bills, and energy efficiency legislation.
Pointing to the expected passage of a bipartisan child care block grant bill currently on the floor, Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., said he hopes that more bipartisan bills can be passed even as Democrats seek to push through their agenda focused on addressing income inequality.
“Hopefully this recipe can be successful today and can be repeated throughout the year,” said Schumer, who leads the Democrats policy and communications arm.
Reid noted that he was pleased with recent congressional accomplishments, citing the two-year budget, the omnibus appropriations, the farm bill and the hike in the debt limit.
“That might not sound like much in the overall scheme of things, but with what’s been happening the last four years … this is progress,” Reid said.