Jobless measure is leaner Democrats hope Bush will OK less costly bill.

October 22, 1991|By Los Angeles Times

WASHINGTON -- In a move designed to avoid a second veto by President Bush, House Democrats have unveiled a less costly, "self-financing" bill that would extend jobless benefits for up to 13 weeks for an estimated 3 million victims of the recession.

The bill, expected to be approved today by the House Ways and Means Committee, would pay for an additional $5.2 billion worth of benefits largely by increasing employers' unemployment insurance taxes, starting in 1993.

While the revenue provisions may be controversial, the House and Senate were expected to pass the bill quickly, possibly this week or early next week, as lawmakers seek ways to alleviate the impact of the continuing economic slump.

There was no immediate indication from the White House on whether the revised legislation would be acceptable to the president, who vetoed an earlier, more expensive benefit-extension measure that would have increased the federal deficit.

The proposed House measure would raise the wage base subject to the 0.8 percent unemployment insurance tax to $7,700 from $7,000, beginning in 1993. Because it is a revenue-raising measure, House passage would clear the way for possible Senate amendments to reduce income taxes or approve new tax breaks. Democratic leaders, however, were considered likely to oppose any amendments that would delay enactment of the benefits package.

Bush prevailed last week in a showdown with Congress over anti-recession legislation when the Senate sustained his veto of a bill that would have extended jobless payments for up to 20 weeks at a cost to taxpayers of $6.4 billion.

The president asked Congress to adopt a less generous bill that would extend benefits for up to 10 weeks at a cost of $3 billion, which would be financed through sales of radio spectrum bands and tougher enforcement of tax laws by the Internal Revenue Service.

The latest Democratic proposal, sponsored by House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dan Rostenkowski, D-Ill., was tailored to meet Bush's objections that the previous bill would bust last year's budget agreement and add to the massive $300 billion deficit.

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