COBRA Extension Included In Newly Unveiled Senate Jobs Bill

Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus, D- Mont., and ranking Republican Charles Grassley, R- Iowa, this morning jointly unveiled a draft of the chamber's jobs bill, "vowing to maintain the 'bipartisan character' of their negotiations going forward," The Washington Post 44 reports. "The $85 billion package ... is the first in what Democratic leaders say will be a series of job-creation measures the Senate will address in 2010." Senate Democrats were set to review the measure this afternoon. Included among its provisions is a three-month extension of COBRA health benefits. The bill also "would postpone for seven months a scheduled cut in the payments doctors receive under Medicare" (Pershing, 2/11).

New York Times Caucus Blog: The bill extends jobless benefits and health care coverage for the unemployed. "Calling the provisions time-sensitive, the two lawmakers said the bill was drafted in an effort to respond to current economic conditions," but also emphasized "the measure should not be rushed and that lawmakers must have ample time to review and react to the plan since it did not go through the usual Finance Committee process" (Hulse, 2/11).

CQ Politics: Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., "had sought to move a job-creation bill this week, before senators leave for the one-week Presidents Day recess, but the historic snow storms that battered Washington ... stymied those plans. Action will likely be delayed until lawmakers return the week of Feb. 22," leaving "only a few days to finish the bill before some provisions, such as the extended unemployment benefits, expire Feb. 28" (2/11).

Politico: "The Finance Committee agreement, however, may be the breakthrough the Reid needs if he wants a vote after next week's Presidents Day recess" (Lerer, 2/11).

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