Policy: Entitlements

Millionaires lose unemployment benefits in new Senate deal

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Beltway Confidential,Opinion,Joel Gehrke,Senate,Social Security,Entitlements,Tom Coburn,Unemployment

Millionaires will no longer qualify for unemployment benefits under the bipartisan Senate deal unveiled Thursday afternoon, ending a subsidy that Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., attacked as a "reverse Robin Hood" provision designed to increase support for government programs.

"Notwithstanding any other provision of law, no federal funds may be used for payments of unemployment compensation under the emergency un employment compensation program . . .to an individual whose adjusted gross income in the preceding year was equal to or greater than $1,000,000," reads the unemployment extension bill, written by a bipartisan group of lawmakers including Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., and Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio.

That's a long-game victory for Coburn. "This is not an accidental loophole in the law," the retiring senator wrote in 2011.

"To the contrary, this reverse Robin Hood style of wealth redistribution is an intentional effort to get all Americans bought into a system where everyone appears to benefit," Coburn said.

Coburn's report showed that millionaires had received $74 million in unemployment benefits from 2005-2009. They received another $9 billion in Social Security benefits paid by the government.

The deal gives Republicans a precedent they can use in further negotiations with Democrats over means-testing Social Security and other entitlement programs, something Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has opposed.

The Senate deal comes as the number of millionaires in the United States reaches a record high of 9.63 million.

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