WASHINGTON - Legislation to resurrect long-term jobless legislation stalled in the Senate on Thursday, triggering recriminations from both sides of the aisle despite earlier expressions of optimism that benefits might soon be restored for more than one million victims of the recession.
Gridlock asserted itself after majority Democrats offered to pay for a 10-month extension of a scaled-back program of benefits - then refused to permit Republicans to seek any changes.
Instead, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) accused Republicans of "continually denigrating our economy, our president, and, frankly, I believe, our country."
Sen. Dan Coats of Indiana, one of a half-dozen Republicans who helped advance the bill over an initial hurdle earlier in the week, said he hadn't been consulted by Democrats on any compromise.
Echoing complaints in his party, he said that under Reid's leadership he has been relegated to the sidelines. Indiana voters "didn't send me here to be told just to sit down and forget it," he said.
At issue was a struggle over the possible resurrection of a program that expired Dec. 28, immediately cutting off benefits of roughly $256 weekly for more than 1.3 million.
At midday Thursday, Reid had expressed optimism about the chances for compromise, and Democratic officials said talks with Republicans were focused on a scaled-back program that is fully paid for and would provide up to 31 weeks of benefits for the long-term unemployed.
The officials said the proposal would run through the late fall, and the price tag - approximately $18 billion - would be offset through cuts elsewhere in the budget so deficits would not rise.
The cost would be offset in part by extending a previouslyapproved reduction in Medicare payments to providers, the officials said, and in part by limiting or eliminating the ability of individuals on Social Security disability from also receiving unemployment benefits.
But midafternoon, when Reid formally outlined the proposal, there was no evident Republican support for it, and each side accused the other of an unwillingness to compromise.
Democrats initially sought a three-month renewal of the expired program and opposed paying for it, meaning the $6.4 billion cost would be added to the deficit.