Several leading Democrats warned Wednesday that the budget deal worked out by House and Senate negotiators is on the verge of unraveling over the exclusion of federal unemployment benefits.
The lawmakers are outraged by a GOP move to add the Medicare “doc fix” to the deal but not a continuation of unemployment benefits — a strategy they say could sink the entire package by scaring away Democratic votes.
Reps. Chris Van Hollen (Md.) and Sandy Levin (Mich.) said the move creates a “new dynamic” undermining Democratic support for the plan announced Tuesday by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.).
“I think it puts at risk the whole bill, and it surely puts at risk my vote,” said Levin, the top Democrat at the House Ways and Means Committee.
Van Hollen echoed that message.
“This does now add a new dynamic that could upset the applecart that could put at risk the budget agreement,” he said.
It’s not clear whether Democrats would sink the first bipartisan budget deal in years over the unemployment insurance (UI) issue. But with GOP leaders intent on leaving town on Friday — and showing little appetite to extend the benefits before they expire on Dec. 28 — the Democrats’ only real leverage is to threaten to do so.
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