Accord is reached on jobless bill Bush calls for quick action, and Democrats respond.

November 01, 1991|By New York Times

WASHINGTON -- Spurred by a demand for quick action by President Bush, congressional Democrats have agreed on a new plan to pay extended unemployment benefits to people out of work at least half a year, according to House Speaker Thomas S. Foley.

The plan, which Bob Dole of Kansas, the Senate Republican leader, said he could support because it paid for itself, may end three months of partisan wrangling over helping about three million long-term unemployed people.

The spur to yesterday's agreement was a move by the president, who has killed two earlier versions of the bill, to complain of the "politics being played" on the issue and urge quick action. Democrats have scored heavily on Bush's opposition in recent months, but at leadership meetings yesterday they worried over the risk that the president and other Republicans might now blunt their advantage if they delayed.

Bush's sudden aggressive backing of action on jobless benefits appeared to reflect political concern that the issue was cutting against him. While his spokesman, Marlin Fitzwater, said yesterday that the president had supported benefits since "Day 1," as recently as mid-September the Office of Management and Budget asserted that extra unemployment benefits merely "increase the unemployment rate," suggesting that the jobless preferred more benefits to getting jobs.

The measure Foley and Rep. Dan Rostenkowski, the Illinois Democrat who is chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, plan to introduce today would would provide up to 20 weeks of extra benefits in states hit hardest by the recession, and cover everyone still out of work who had exhausted his or her benefits since March.

Most of its $5.7 billion cost would come from denying high-income taxpayers who expect sharp earnings increases the right to compute their estimated tax not on what they expect to earn, but on what they earned the previous year.

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