Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Omnibus 2/2 Clears House of Representatives - Next Step Senate Then President

This afternoon, the U.S. House approved the final version of a defense appropriations bill (HR 3326) that included a $13 billion provision to extend by two months the deadline to file for both jobless benefits and the COBRA health coverage subsidy. The legislation would protect roughly three million people scheduled to exhaust their insurance early next year. The Senate is expected to pass their version in the next week.

But that's not all. House leaders are also planning to vote on a $154 billion job creation package. A portion ($79 million) would extend unemployment benefits and the COBRA subsidy by an additional six months while also continuing to temporarily pay a higher share of all Medicaid costs incurred by state governments. Using leftover Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) money, the bill would also fund $48 million worth of infrastructure spending and $27 billion worth of flexible state aid.

If the latter measure passes, it could seriously help state lawmakers scrambling to plug the looming FY 2011 budget gap while simultaneously spurring some much-needed infrastructure improvements. The Senate could take up the legislation after the holiday recess. Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-ND) has called it "a priority in January."
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