House Splits Extenders Bill, Cuts COBRA Benefits Out
House Democratic leaders just started a series of procedural votes leading up to what they hope will be passage of sweeping legislation extending a number of expiring tax breaks and unemployment insurance benefits.
To appease budget hawks in their own party, however, they’ve made a number of changes. Most significantly:
- They’ve cleaved the bill into two parts: one that includes the tax extensions and unemployment benefits provision, and one that would prevent Medicare doctors from receiving a steep pay cut at the end of this month.
- The bill no longer extends COBRA health benefits, which help newly unemployed workers pay their health insurance premiums.
- And it no longer includes funding to help states cover Medicaid patients — funding the states see as vital to balance their budgets, as Medicaid rolls have increased through the recent economic downturn at the same time that revenues have dropped.
If the two bills pass the House today, they will then move to the Senate, which, for all practical purposes, has already adjourned for a week-long Memorial Day vacation. That leaves the upper chamber to take up the House bills when Congress returns June 7. Meanwhile, a number of safety-net benefits — including unemployment benefits and COBRA health benefits — will expire.