Yesterday the Senate approved HR 4213, the Tax Extenders Act of 2009, by a 62-35 vote. Tom Harkin voted for the bill, as did all but one Democrat. Chuck Grassley voted against the bill, as did all but six Republicans (roll call here). Harkin’s office summarized some of the $140 billion bill’s key provisions:
o Extend the current federal unemployment benefits program through Dec 31, 2010.
o Extend the federal funding of the state share of Extended Benefits through Dec 31, 2010.
o Extend eligibility for the temporary increase of $25 per week in individual weekly unemployment compensation through Dec 31, 2010.
o Extend the 65 percent subsidy for COBRA coverage through Dec 31, 2010.
o Extend the Medicare payment fix for doctors.
o Extend FMAP, the federal share of Medicaid payments, to give state budgets some relief.
Last week, Congress passed a 30-day extension of the federal unemployment benefits program (through April 5th) and the extension prior to that continued unemployment benefits for 2 months (from Dec 2009 to Feb 2010).
The Hill reported that about $80 billion of the bill’s cost “goes toward prolonging increased levels of federal unemployment aid and COBRA healthcare benefits for the jobless through the end of December.” According to the Washington Post, the main Republican objection was that the bill will add to the deficit. It’s notable that Republicans never let concerns about the deficit stop them from voting for unaffordable wars or tax cuts for the wealthy. But unemployment benefits that help struggling families while stimulating the economy and creating jobs are too expensive for Republicans.
The Senate bill approved yesterday also included an extension of the Biodiesel Tax Credit through the end of December. Most Iowa biodiesel plants are not viable without this tax credit, and consequently many shut down production in January of this year.
House Democrats may want a conference committee to reconcile the bill the Senate passed yesterday with a $154 billion jobs bill the House approved in December. That House bill included “significant new spending for infrastructure projects, as well as aid to states to prevent layoffs of key personnel such as teachers, police and firefighters.” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has reportedly promised to “bring up a bill that included the infrastructure and state fiscal aid measures from the House jobs bill” before the Senate’s Easter break.