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POLITICS: PennAve

House and Senate to clash this week on Ukraine and jobless pay measures

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Politics,Congress,Susan Ferrechio,Jobs,Senate,Labor,Entitlements,PennAve,Unemployment,Ukraine

The House and Senate this week are set to clash on legislation to extend federal jobless benefits as well as a measure to provide a loan package to troubled Ukraine.

The Senate on Monday is poised to move forward on a bill that would supply Ukraine with $1 billion in loan guarantees aimed at reducing its dependency on Russia, which has invaded and seized Crimea. Enough Republicans agree with the measure to help the Democratically-led Senate come up with the 60 votes needed to begin debate and eventually pass the measure.

But the House, led by Republicans, is likely to balk at a provision in the Senate bill that would reform the International Monetary Fund so that economically advancing nations, including Russia, are granted a larger IMF voting share.

Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., told the Washington Examiner he wants the Senate to instead vote on the House version of the bill, which includes the $1 billion loan package but excludes the IMF provision.

Both bills also authorize, but do not compel President Obama to impose further sanctions on Russia beyond what the president has already put in place.

The Senate bill also authorizes another $100 million for “enhanced security cooperation” for Ukraine and neighboring countries in Central and Eastern Europe and it green-lights $50 million to help Ukraine re-establish a legitimate and functioning government.

The two chambers will move from one sticking point to another when the Senate takes up a bipartisan measure to extend federal unemployment benefits later in the week.

The Senate is expected to pass the measure, which was authored by five Republicans and five Democrats after weeks of negotiations.

It would extend federal jobless benefits for five months and provide retroactive pay to those who were eligible when the benefits expired on Dec. 28.

The bill’s $9.7 billion cost would be offset by a change in corporate pension funding rules as well as an extension in customs fee increases through 2024.

The bill is likely to hit a snag even if it sails to Senate passage.

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said the bill appears to be “simply unworkable,” based on concerns from state administrators of unemployment insurance programs. They warned last week that the proposal, particularly the provision granting retroactive pay, would be expensive to administer and conducive to fraud and abuse because it would be tough to determine eligibility.

Boehner has also insisted that any jobless pay extension bill include provisions to increase jobs and the Senate bill has no such language.

“Frankly, a better use of the Senate’s time would be taking up and passing the dozens of House-passed jobs bills still awaiting action,” Boehner said.

While the House won't be jumping to take up the Senate's unemployment pay measure, it will be moving ahead on bills aimed at curbing Obama's “pen and phone” philosophy of working around a gridlocked Congress.

The House will vote on a bill that would stop the Obama administration from implementing new regulations on coal plants.

The bill, “Preventing Government Waste and Protecting Coal Mining Jobs in America Act,” aims to stop “reckless and unnecessary” rewriting of the nation’s coal regulations, which sponsors said would eliminate 7,000 jobs and cause economic harm in 22 states.

The House will also vote on a bill that would require more public input to decide when and where a national monument will be dedicated.

Obama has angered Republicans by designating numerous monuments and bypassing Congressional input.

Under current law, the president alone can designate a national monument. But Republicans say the authority has been misused, “for political purposes by presidents on both sides of the political spectrum.”

The bill would require a monument designation to first receive a feasibility study and estimation of cost to taxpayers and it would prevent seizing private property for monuments.

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Susan Ferrechio

Chief Congressional Correspondent
The Washington Examiner