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TARP Amendment Now Stands as New Barrier to Extending Unemployment Benefits

Moments ago, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) shot down a motion by Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to proceed to legislation extending federal unemployment insurance by up to 20 weeks in the states hit hardest by the recession. It marks the fourth time in three weeks that GOP leaders have prevented the bill from advancing, though the reasons behind the stalemate have changed.

Specifically, GOP leaders have dropped their insistence that the Senate consider amendments related to [ACORN and immigration](to extend a homebuyer tax credit). Instead, they’re now demanding a vote on a provision to fund the unemployment insurance extension with stimulus funds, and another to move up the expiration date for the Troubled Asset Relief Program, which enabled federal bailouts of Wall Street firms — both non-starters with Democrats.

A third amendment — designed to end federal ownership of bailed out firms — has already been agreed upon.**

If Reid and the Democrats would just agree to a short debate on those three amendments, McConnell said, the Senate could pass the unemployment bill “this very afternoon.”

“This is not an effort to delay,” McConnell said.

Reid refused, arguing that TARP already has a sunset date, and that House leaders were not willing to accept the proposed GOP change.

“This isn’t the time to do that,” Reid said. “It’s just an effort to delay [and] divert attention from this most important issue.”

***Update: This post has been updated. Initially, the third amendment listed was a popular homebuyer tax credit. While party leaders have also reached agreement on that provision, it was not included in the list of amendments McConnell insisted Thursday should be a part of the debate. *

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