When Members of Congress return from their spring recess on Monday, April 12, the first piece of unfinished business awaiting the Senate is a temporary extension of unemployment insurance (UI) benefits and continuing health insurance coverage under the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA).
The House passed the UI and COBRA extension two weeks ago (as H.R. 4851), but Senate action was delayed by Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK), who insisted that funding be found to pay for the extended benefits instead of being paid for by government borrowing.
As a result of the Senate delay, approximately 200,000 people whose 26 weeks of unemployment benefits ended this past week could not apply for extended benefits.
Next week, the Senate is expected to amend H.R. 4851 to make the benefits retroactive and extend them through the end of May 2010. This means that even if the Senate were to pass this bill next week, it will have to go back to the House to be voted on again.
Another bill (HR 4213) being considered by Congress would extend UI benefits and the COBRA subsidy through the end of this year. This bill has already passed the Senate and is now before the House, where a vote has not been scheduled.