DEAL MAKING: Senate Republicans want cost-saving reforms enacted in exchange for their votes to extend unemployment insurance benefits. Here, Sens. Dan Coats, R-Ind., and Chris Coons, D-Del., arrive at the Capitol.
By Kenric Ward | Watchdog.org
WASHINGTON, D.C. — A group of U.S. Senate Republicans is pressing for $70 billion in fiscal reforms to offset the cost of extending unemployment benefits.
Three key negotiating chips:
- Ending the disbursement of child tax credit refunds to illegal immigrants.
- A halt to double dipping by Social Security recipients on disability.
- Delaying Obamacare‘s individual and employer mandates for one year.
All three proposals are long shots, with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid actively or tacitly supporting the status-quo. But to garner the 60 votes required to avert a filibuster on the unemployment-benefit extension, the Nevada Democrat needs Republican support.
GOP Sens. Dan Coats of Indiana, Rob Portman of Ohio and Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, along with three other Republicans, want to use the legislative showdown to rein in costs in other programs.
Speaking of the dual benefits received by jobless-aid recipients, Coats said, “This is an example of why the American people are so frustrated with Washington’s dysfunction. A person cannot be both able and unable to work at the same time.”
By law, a person must be able to prove they can work to qualify for unemployment insurance, yet some people claiming unemployment benefits also request Social Security Disability Insurance benefits. To claim SSDI benefits, a person must be unable to work because of a medical condition.
The Social Security Administration estimates that $8 billion could be saved by stopping the double dipping.
For even bigger savings, Ayotte and Coats pointed to illegal immigrants receiving millions of dollars in tax refunds.
As reported by Watchdog.org last year, the IRS determined that illegal residency does not preclude the agency from paying child tax-credit refunds, as long as the recipients have obtained an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number.
By requiring submission of a valid Social Security number, which requires legal residency, Coats estimates $27 billion in taxpayer savings.
Delaying the Obamacare mandates for one year would produce the biggest savings: $35 billion.
“President Obama has delayed the mandates for businesses, and offering the same delay to all American families is a simple issue of fairness,” Coats said.
All told, the Republican proposals would pay for a proposed three-month extension of unemployment benefits, and chip away at the cost of a full-year extension favored by Reid. That larger package would run $26 billion the first year.
The Washington Post reported that Reid objects to any offsetting savings for the short term.
“We’re not going to do that; I think that would be wrong,” Reid said. But he left the door open to a longer-term deal.
The Republican-controlled House is demanding offsetting cost-savings as a precondition for any consideration of a jobless-benefits extension.
In late December, a federal law expired that allowed for emergency extensions of unemployment benefits beyond the usual 26 weeks. This shifted 1.3 million unemployed off the insurance program, and many more will run up against the normal limits and lose benefits throughout the year, the Post reported.
Kenric Ward is a national correspondent for Watchdog.org and chief of its Virginia Bureau. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (571) 319-9824. @Kenricward
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