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Out Of 400 Amendments, Just One For The Jobless

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Of the 403 amendments submitted to a stopgap budget measure to fund the government through the rest of the current fiscal year, only one mentions the word "unemployment."

Legislation by Reps. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) and Bobby Scott (D-Va.) would provide an additional 14 weeks of benefits to Americans who have been out of work for six months or longer. Lee and Scott asked Republican leaders in the House of Representatives to consider the measure as an amendment to their "continuing resolution," the budget measure that funds the government through Sept. 30, the end of the current fiscal year.

Many of the 400 amendments will be pulled, but if the Lee-Scott item is deemed germane by the Rules Committee, it will see a vote on the House floor.

In a vote, however, Republicans would probably defeat the amendment, which would add roughly $16 billion to the budget deficit. Lee has said she will look for ways to offset the cost of the bill if Republicans block it because of its deficit impact, but in a letter to Republican leaders on Tuesday, Lee and Scott asked for an emergency designation that would exempt the bill from pay-as-you-go rules.

"We write to express our deep concern for the 13.9 million unemployed workers across the country, and especially the 6.2 million long-term unemployed who are in need of immediate assistance," Lee and Scott wrote. "While we all recognize the importance of fiscal responsibility, we equally recognize the need to address this state of emergency before millions of people go into poverty."

The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that federal extensions of jobless benefits kept U.S. poverty levels below what would otherwise have been record levels in 2009.

The National Employment Law Project said last week that 3.9 million Americans ran out of unemployment benefits in 2010, based on an analysis of final payments made by states. The Lee-Scott legislation is aimed at "99ers" -- those who have exhausted the maximum 99 weeks of benefits available in some states without finding work -- though anyone out of work longer than six months would be eligible for the extra 14 weeks of help.

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