Congress returned this week, and the familiar topics of Obamacare, budget and unemployment benefits were all front and center on the agenda. On Tuesday, the Senate voted to advance a bill to extend unemployment benefits to the long-term unemployed. By Thursday, negotiations over details of the plan stalled, with Democrats proposing an extension that will cost roughly $18 billion, and for which they will need the support of at least five Republicans to pass. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has scheduled a vote on the measure Monday, but it is unclear at this point if it will have the votes needed to pass.
Meanwhile, on the House side, votes are scheduled for Friday on bills that address security concerns with the website used to enroll in insurance in the new state insurance marketplaces, a key piece of the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. The bills would require the federal government to issue weekly reports on ACA enrollment and promptly notify users of any breach of personal data. The White House opposes the bills, though stopped short of a veto threat.
The other looming issue is that of the budget. The current continuing resolution funds the government through the middle of next week, January 15, which leaves little time for lawmakers to reach an accord on the details of the rough plan the budget conference led by Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) and Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI) worked out last month. Absent a new budget or another continuing resolution, the government faces the potential of another shutdown.