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Reid blocks plans by Ayotte, other Republicans to pay for three-month extension of unemployment benefits

Senior Political Reporter

January 09. 2014 7:19PM

With Republicans and Democrats in the U.S. Senate at an apparent impasse over how long to extend jobless benefits and how to pay for it, Sen. Kelly Ayotte continued to push her plan Thursday to raise the necessary funds for a three-month extension by closing a tax loophole she says is being abused by illegal immigrants.

But Ayotte and other Republicans ran into a brick wall in the form of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. He blocked 24 Republican amendments to pay for the three-month extension as he looks for a way to pay for a longer extension of the benefits.

Ayotte's plan would also restore cuts in military pensions that were part of the recently-passed budget.

She says her amendment would raise enough money to pay for the three-month unemployment extension, restore the pension cuts and make a dent in the deficit by requiring those who file for the Additional Child Tax Credit to provide Social Security numbers.

Ayotte said Thursday her amendment would stop a "scheme that currently allows illegal immigrants to claim" the credit. Earlier this week, she said closing the loophole would save $20 billion over the next 10 years.

Her office clarified Thursday that her amendment "does nothing to prevent those who are legally authorized to work in this country from being able to receive this credit."

Ayotte on Tuesday crossed party lines to support opening debate on the unemployment benefits extension. But she said she would not vote in favor of final passage of the extension unless it is paid for and does not add to the deficit.

Early Thursday, it appeared a deal could be reached between Democrats and Republicans on extending the benefits.

But those negotiations later "blew up," reported, placing the future of the extension plan in doubt.

Majority Leader Reid then blocked Republicans from proposing amendments to the unemployment benefits extension bill, and the Senate reportedly will not hold any votes until next Monday evening.

Democrats prefer a longer benefits extension, and have a plan to pay for them through November by extending the federal sequester's mandatory savings by a year, through 2024, and closing a loophole that allow people to draw both disability and unemployment benefits, saving $18 billion.

Republicans are generally opposed to an extension of that length, preferring a shorter extension.

Ayotte spoke on the Senate floor Thursday evening to promote her plan.

In a heated exchange that followed, Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Cal, accused Ayotte of "going after children" with her amendment, calling it "one of the worst ideas I have ever heard."

Ayotte responded that if Boxer objects to the amendment, "then why don't we vote on it?"

She said her amendment is focused only on "children who may not exist or who don't live in the United States of America."

"This amendment is about protecting the American taxpayer, and the American taxpayer needs some protection," Ayotte said.

In a statement after her floor speech, she said, "After voting in good faith to debate legislation on extending long-term unemployment benefits, it's disappointing that Senate Democrats are blocking a vote on my common-sense amendment to pay for these temporary benefits, repeal the unfair military retirement cuts, and reduce the deficit.

"My amendment would save billions by stopping a tax fraud scheme in which illegal workers fraudulently claim the additional child tax credit, in some cases for children who don't live in the United States or even exist. The Treasury Department has said this tax credit has been grossly abused, and my amendment takes common sense steps to prevent massive tax fraud."

"It's a sad day when a common sense amendment to responsibly pay for legislation that helps struggling Americans, repeals unfair military retirement benefits and reduces the deficit can't even get a vote in the Senate," Ayotte said.

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