Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
February 7, 2016

Unemployment Extension Vote Likely Delayed Until Next Week (Updated)

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 7:53 p.m. | With a squeezed calendar, the Senate will likely not hold a final vote passing a bill reviving emergency unemployment insurance benefits until next week.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said he plans to turn to the bipartisan unemployment extension compromise as quickly as possible under Senate rules, but there’s business to tend to first — namely an aid package for Ukraine and several pending judicial nominations.

“We’ll finish the judges in 24 hours. Under the new rules, we can do that fairly quickly,” the Nevada Democrat said. “I’m going to start unemployment right on the tail of Ukraine.”

Later in the day, Reid set up votes Wednesday on several nominations and Thursday on the Ukraine legislation. If senators follow the normal schedule and depart for the weekend Thursday afternoon, the bulk of the debate won’t happen until next week.

Reid and other Democrats agreed to jettison an International Monetary Fund overhaul package opposed by many Republicans as part of the Ukraine aid bill. The nomination votes are ahead of the unemployment insurance benefits in the queue because Reid moved to cut off debate on those before senators departed for their most recent recess.

“We’re going to do judges today and tomorrow, and then we’ll do unemployment and we’ll see what the House is going to do on SGR,” Reid said. “We kind of have to wait for them before we go charging forward.”

The sustainable growth rate, or SGR, is the Medicare payment formula for doctors. Without a patch or a more permanent fix, doctors would once again face draconian cuts next month, cuts that no one really ever expects to take effect.

Finance Chairman Ron Wyden, D-Ore., went so far as to call the current SGR system “Medicare make-believe” speaking with reporters Monday.

Reid says he prefers a long-term solution that Wyden’s working on, but he signaled the door is open to another short-term patch.

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