Members of the Senate voted 62-36 Wednesday to pass H.R. 4213, a bill that includes a COBRA subsidy extension provision and defined benefit pension plan funding provisions.
The final version of the COBRA and pension provisions were added in the form of a major amendment to H.R. 4213, the $130 billion American Workers, State and Business Relief Act.
Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., introduced the amendment.
H.R. 4213 must now be reconciled with a similar bill with the same number–the Tax Extenders Act of 2009–that passed the House last December.
About $80 billion of the bill’s total appropriations will be used to prolong federal unemployment aid and the 65% health benefits continuation subsidy now available under the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act. The legislation makes the extra unemployment aid and the COBRA subsidy available through Dec. 31.
The Senate measure also extends the current Medicare payment rate for doctors; without the extension, Medicare doctors would see their pay drop 21%. The bill also would allocate $25 billion to states to help them fund their Medicaid programs for another 6 months.
Pension Funding Relief
The Senate also adopted an amendment that provides for pension funding relief, which, along with the underlying funding provisions included in jobs legislation, is intended to save jobs by allowing companies more time to repay losses incurred by pension plans in 2008.
The funding relief amendment to H.R. 4213 was a bipartisan product sponsored by Senators Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., and Benjamin Cardin, D-Md.