After a week-long series of political wrangling, Democratic leaders claim the federal flood insurance program, COBRA health insurance subsidies and jobless aid will be reinstated retroactively. Whether this is an accurate prediction of reality, however, remains to be seen.

Hundreds of thousands of Americans will have their jobless aid restored after a measure reauthorizing extension of the program cleared a hurdle in the Senate yesterday. The measure was combined with a move to reauthorize the federal flood insurance program; both plans are now clear for passage later in the week.

The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), which has long survived on a series of temporary extensions, lapsed two weeks ago as senators were unable to pass H.R. 4851 prior to the Easter recess.

The provision reauthorizing the federal flood insurance program as currently written would be effective retroactively to Feb. 28, but would only extend the program until April 30, 2010.

Republican Senator Tom Coburn prevented a vote on the expired unemployment benefits already affecting 200,000 Americans at the end of March, shortly before Congress adjourned for a two-week break. It’s anticipated that another 200,000 Americans would lose their benefits this week if Congress does not renew them, according to liberal advocacy group the National Employment Law Project.  

In similar fashion to its treatment of the NFIP, Democrats have been extending the program, which normally expires after six months, on a month-to-month basis as they work on a longer-term fix.

Earlier in the day yesterday, Democrats had fallen short of the 60 votes needed for passage earlier, largely as a result of Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy’s absence so he could attend at a funeral.

However, by a vote of 60 to 40, Democrats voted to set aside a law that requires new spending to be offset with tax increases or spending cuts elsewhere.

Sen. Coburn’s argument is that Congress should find other ways to pay for the $9.2 billion in extended benefits, citing a budget deficit projected to hit a record $1.5 trillion this fiscal year. Democrats, meanwhile, maintain that aid to help America’s jobless is considered emergency spending.

This week, however, one Republican, George Voinovich of Ohio, a state known for its economic woes, voted with Democrats.

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