Washington (CNN) - Two bipartisan senators on Tuesday introduced pared-down legislation to provide benefits for the long-term unemployed that they hope will be more attractive to House Republicans who have shown little interest in a previous more generous bill sponsored by the two.
Unlike their earlier legislation, which passed the Senate in April, this measure will not pay benefits retroactively to the estimated 3.1 million people whose benefits have run out since the program expired at the end of December. Instead, it will offer up to five months of benefits from the enactment date depending on how many weeks of eligibility an individual had left in the program before it lapsed.
The estimated $10 billion price tag would be offset by extending some customs user fees and through something called “pension smoothing,” a complicated provision that some conservatives consider an accounting gimmick.
“Congress needs to act,” said Sen. Jack Reed, D-Rhode Island, who co-authored the bill with Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nevada.
“Restoring unemployment benefits is the right thing to do for American families. It’s a smart step too because it will provide for the resources that will help stimulate demand especially in those states like Rhode Island and Nevada that continue to see very high unemployment rates and the nation, as a whole, sees substantially higher long-term unemployment rates.”
Heller said he spoke with incoming House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy who told him an unemployment bill would have to include GOP proposals for job creation. Some Republicans have complained the extended benefits are a disincentive to find work.
Heller also encouraged President Barack Obama to get “more engaged” in lobbying Congress to act.
“He needs to pick up the phone, talk to the Speaker and say hey, how are we going to get this done?’” Heller said.
Both senators said it was unclear when or if the legislation will be taken up in the Senate. They said they wanted to introduce the compromise bill to encourage the House to act.