According to press reports, the House-Senate committee charged with coming up with a compromise measure to extend the payroll tax reduction and unemployment benefits reached a tentative agreement last night. In the deal, Republicans have apparently dropped their proposal to require unemployed workers who lack a high school diploma or GED from collecting unemployment benefits until they acquire one or the other (or are enrolled in a class to acquire one). From a New York Times story on the deal this morning:
Democrats, elated after winning the Republican tax concession after months of clashes, said they had also been able to beat back new conditions that Republicans had wanted on jobless pay, like requiring beneficiaries to seek high school equivalency degrees…
From the Boston Globe:
Republicans also were expected to drop a proposal requiring unemployed people to enroll in GED classes to obtain benefits, and a GOP proposal allowing states to employ drug tests as a condition of receiving unemployment benefits would be scrapped as well. But Republicans won a provision requiring jobless people to be more diligent in job searches as a condition of receiving benefits.
It will be interesting to look at the final conference report to see what that last sentence means.
Also, it’s not entirelly clear to me what has happened with the drug testing requirement. The Globe report above says its been dropped, but an earlier report in Roll Call quoted a Republican aide saying that the deal included language allowing states “to drug screen workers seeking a job that requires a drug test or who lost a job due to a failed drug test.”
Politico, reaffirming that the high school diploma/GED requirement has been dropped, but suggests that the deal might have an extremely watered version of the drug testing requirement:
The deal would drop language called for by Republicans allowing states to drug test potential recipients of jobless benefits and requiring the unemployed to be in a GED program if they have not finished high school. Republicans said the deal’s language on drug testing will reaffirm existing law.
Update (6:00 PM): Roll Call reported this afternoon that House Republican leaders emerged from a Conference meeting this morning “tempering expectations” that a majority of their Conference will accept the deal. Democrats were also reportedly “quick to note that a deal is not yet final.”
Meanwhile, the Washington Post‘s Greg Sargent was forwarded talking points that House Republicans have been circulating about the deal, which includes the following:
“Those receiving unemployment benefits must be searching for a job, and every state will be allowed to drug screen workers seeking a job that requires a drug test or who lost a job due to a failed drug test.”