The deal would end jobless payments to people earning more than $1 million a year, similar to a provision sought by Sens. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., and John Tester, D-Mont.
The measure will need 60 Senate votes to overcome Republican procedural tactics aimed at killing it. But with Democrats having 55 votes — including two usually supportive independents — supporters seemed to have a strong chance of reaching that threshold because five Republicans co-sponsored the announced deal. They were Heller, Collins and Sens. Rob Portman of Ohio, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Mark Kirk of Illinois.
Jobless Americans can qualify initially for state-sponsored unemployment benefits that generally run for 26 weeks. After that, they can receive emergency federal coverage that lasts from 14 weeks to 47 weeks, depending on how high unemployment is in their state.
When the emergency program expired Dec. 28, 1.3 million people immediately lost those benefits. Since then an average of 72,000 people weekly exhausted state benefits and could not receive emergency coverage, according to the liberal National Employment Law Project.