Menu

Politics

Senate

Reid to Neutralize Bunning's Objection Over Unemployment Aid Bill

reid_022510

Feb. 25: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is flanked by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer outside the White House at the end of a day of meetings with President Obama and Republicans on health care reform. (AP Photo)

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid plans to get around Sen. Jim Bunning's objections to a $10 billion jobless aid bill by moving straight to the much-larger $100 billion permanent version of the bill this week, sources told Fox News on Monday. 

The Kentucky Republican had objected to the smaller, stopgap bill over concerns about its effect on the budget deficit. That objection threatened unemployment benefits for 400,000 Americans and, according to the Department of Transportation, triggered the furlough Monday of 2,000 transportation workers -- since the bill would have also extended federal highway and transit programs. Federal transit money, however, is included in the $15 billion jobs bill that passed the Senate and is awaiting approval in the House. 

The stopgap measure also cut Medicare reimbursements to doctors by 21 percent, since it also funded the so-called "doctor fix" that adds to the deficit.

In his objection, Bunning said had Reid not blown up the bipartisan jobs bill into separate parts, the temporary measure would have been affordable.

But Republican Senate sources said Reid plans to move directly to the permanent version of the bill which, for procedural reasons, Bunning cannot block. 

Republicans were planning to fall in line with the stopgap measure despite Bunning's objections provided Democrats pay for it with unspent stimulus money. Reid is expected to reject that. 

Though Democrats, including Vice President Biden, have slammed Bunning for blocking the temporary version of the bill, one source told Fox News it's unlikely anyone will lose out on unemployment benefits. 

"The administration is supposedly able to finagle some accounts for (approximately) two weeks in order to not allow a lapse in any coverage. The nuances are pretty in the weeds," the Senate source said. 

The permanent bill is expected to pass, but Republicans may not be happy about it considering the Senate just passed a bill requiring Congress to pay for legislation as it comes up, commonly referred to as PAYGO. 

Senate Republican Whip Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., suggested on "Fox News Sunday" that while he supported Bunning's objection to the $10 billion package, that was small potatoes compared to the permanent extension. 

"This is a temporary extension. It's over $10 billion. And all Senator Bunning was saying, quite correctly, is it ought to be paid for. Congress just passed the so-called pay-go legislation which is supposed to require that we find offsets or other savings if we're going to spend money," Kyl said. "We exempt this bill from it. ... The question for the longer term extension is a different issue, because that's well over $100 billion." 

Fox News' Jim Angle contributed to this report.