Maine Republican Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins have come out in favor of extending unemployment benefits and the Social Security payroll tax cut both due to expire at the end of the year.
Snowe said in a statement that she wanted an agreement on unemployment benefits and the payroll tax cut. She added that the key to an agreement was figuring out how to do so without increasing the deficit. Collins backs extending both provisions, and according to her spokesman, she "calls upon the president to engage in real, bipartisan discussions to come up with a plan on which both sides can agree."
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) said Sunday on CNN's "State Of The Union" that he will only support an unemployment benefits extension if it does not add to the federal debt. "We have an unemployment program. We have a tax for it. It's paid for for 26 weeks. So the question is, do we want to borrow money from China to pay people not to work?"
With the super committee not producing an agreement that might have included the expiring provisions, Congress faces a decision on whether to extend them. Extending both and avoiding a 27 percent Medicare reimbursement cut could cost $200 billion or more, according to the AP. The payroll tax cut has saved over 121 million families almost $1,000 this year, according to the Tax Policy Center, while federal unemployment benefits average about $300 per week to people unemployed between 26 and 99 weeks.
President Barack Obama promoted the payroll tax cut extension Tuesday in a speech in Manchester, N.H. "Don't be a Grinch. Don't vote to raise taxes on working Americans during the holidays," he said. Administration officials said that the White House will have a "laser-like focus" on the extensions before the end of the year.
The payroll tax cut and unemployment benefits extension were passed last year as part of a deal to extend the Bush-era tax cuts. Republican Senators have held up past unemployment benefit extensions over concerns that they would add to the federal debt. Snowe and Collins have been among the handful of Republicans willing to side with Democrats on jobless aid.