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SENATE'S JOBLESS AID PLAN FINALIZED

New York Times

WASHINGTON - The Senate is expected to easily approve legislation today restoring unemployment benefits to nearly 3 million people, throwing the bill to a divided House where Republicans favor starkly different approaches to the issue.

Six Senate Republicans joined all 55 Democrats last week to end debate on legislation that retroactively restores benefits cut off Dec. 28 and extends them through June 1, clearing the way for passage today.

Seven House Republicans from high-unemployment regions or swing districts plan to send House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, a letter coinciding with Senate passage to urge him to take up the Senate bill or a similar measure.

Other House Republicans are pressing to attach to the Senate bill what they call job-creation measures: building the transcontinental Keystone XL pipeline; consolidating job-training programs; or requiring employer-mandated health care coverage for employees who work 40 hours a week, rather than 30, as written in President Barack Obama's health care law.

But many House Republicans oppose passing the unemployment benefits under any circumstances, arguing that such "emergency" benefits are no longer needed nearly six years after they were first extended at the outset of the recession.

"To me it's important to get this done, politically to get it off the table, but also there are people who need it," said Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., one of the drafters of the new House letter. "If we're blaming Obama for the economy, we shouldn't be penalizing people who are the victims."

The extended unemployment benefits, which began under President George W. Bush in 2008, allowed unemployed workers to collect aid for up to 99 weeks, instead of the normal 26 weeks. But the program expired on Dec. 28.

New action on pay

President Barack Obama will sign an executive order Tuesday aimed at closing a pay gap between men and women. The president also will direct the Labor Department to adopt rules requiring federal contractors to provide compensation data based on sex and race. The moves showcase Obama's efforts to raise wages or end gender pay disparities action without congressional approval.

Associated Press

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