Pa. congressman links unemployment benefits extension to legislative wish list

    In a surprise move, the U.S. Senate voted to advance a bill restoring long-term unemployment benefits that expired in December. Area lawmakers are considering what seemed unlikely even a day ago — that they might eventually vote on the legislation.

    Senate Democrats narrowly won the Republican support needed to avoid a filibuster.

    However, even supportive Republicans in the Senate and the GOP-controlled House sound a lot like U.S. Rep. Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania.

    “We need to create jobs,” he said. “And I believe we ought to tie this to the Keystone XL Pipeline, the repeal of the medical device tax and also redefining what it means to be a full-time worker in this country closer to full-time hours rather than 30 hours under the health care law.”

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    These sorts of legislative compromises were avoided in the budget deal reached late last year, which also avoided the issue of the extension.

    Unemployment checks ended for an estimated 1.3 million of the long-term unemployed at the end of December.

    If the renewal passes the Senate, U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz of Pennsylvania urged Republican Speaker John Boehner to bring up legislation in the House without conditions:

    “We can have a longer-term discussion as those months go by about what we do in the long term but certainly, right now, there are literally 1.3 million Americans who have lost their insurance already, who may well be in fairly desperate situations,” she said.

    Those 1.3 million unemployed include 84,000 in Pennsylvania, 79,000 in New Jersey and 3,600 in Delaware. Opponents of extending the benefits say they slow recipients’ re-entry into the workforce.

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