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Senators Dick Durbin and Mark Kirk. | AP file photo

Kirk, Durbin in Senate Gang of 10 forging jobless benefit deal

The two Illinois senators — Republican Mark Kirk and Democrat Dick Durbin — were among the 10 senators who forged a bipartisan agreement to restore long-term unemployment benefits on Thursday.

The Senate left on a week-long recess on Thursday; a vote is expected later in the month, a Durbin spokesman said.

While there is likely the 60 votes needed for this bipartisan measure to pass the Senate, its fate is up for grabs in the House, where the GOP leaders usually do not call bills not supported by the majority of the majority.



Illinois in January had an 8.8 percent unemployment rate, according to the Illinois Department of Employment Security, higher than the 6.6 percent rate for the nation. So it is no surprise to see why bolstering jobless benefits is an Illinois issue.

Rep. Brad Schneider  D-Ill. in a big re-election November contest against former Rep. Bob Dold R-Ill, who he defeated in 2012, is leading the Democratic effort in the House to force Republicans to vote on extending unemployment insurance.

The Kirk move may put pressure on other Illinois GOP House members and challengers facing major Democratic opponents in 2014.  Besides Dold, that’s  former Rep. Bobby Schilling R-Ill. in a rematch with Rep. Cheri Bustos D-Ill., Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Ill. and whatever Republican emerges from the Tuesday Illinois primary to run against Rep. Bill Foster D-Ill.

Earlier, Kirk voted against a measure that would have extended jobless benefits because he objected to how the benefits would be paid for. Kirk drew an attack from the progressive Democratic-allied Americans United for Change which ran an ad on Chicago cable tv last month hitting Kirk on his vote.

In the Senate, Sens. Jack Reed (D-R.I.)  and Dean Heller (R-Nev.) took the lead in packaging the five-month extension deal.

Besides Durbin and Kirk, the other Senators are  Susan Collins (R-Maine), Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio.

Long-term federal benefits expired on Dec. 28. The Senate deal calls for retroactive payments back to Dec. 28.

The White House said in a statement, “We are pleased Democrats and Republicans in the Senate have come together around an agreement to extend emergency unemployment benefits for the more than 2 million Americans who have been fighting every day to find a job. The President has repeatedly called on Congress to take action on a compromise solution to extend this vital lifeline for millions of hard-working Americans as they look for work and support their families.

“This is not just the right thing to do for these Americans looking for work, it’s the right thing to do for our economy. The President urges the Senate to pass the bill and for the House to do the same so that he can sign it into law.”