By Ted Barrett
WASHINGTON (CNN) — Bipartisan negotiators are nearing an agreement on extending emergency unemployment benefits in a way that Democrats hope will satisfy Republican demands to offset the cost, a source close to the negotiations told CNN.
The source said discussions center around extending the emergency benefits through November of this year at a cost of $18 billion.
Currently, high unemployment states qualify for up to 73 weeks of unemployment benefits. Under this proposal, those high unemployment states would lose 16 weeks of eligibility, bringing it down to a maximum of 57 weeks.
Doing that brings the overall cost from roughly $25 billion, down to roughly $18 billion.
$17 billion of the cost would be covered by extending mandatory cuts under sequester for another year.
The remaining $1 billion would come by reducing the number of people double-dipping unemployment benefits while also getting Social Security disability benefits.
The talks involve Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nevada, and the two Democrats from Rhode Island — Sheldon Whitehouse and Jack Reed.
Still unclear is whether the five other Republicans who voted to move forward with debate on the issue will accept this deal. Two of those Republicans, Sen. Dan Coats, R-Indiana, and Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-New Hampshire, told CNN they have not been briefed on the talks yet.
Another of those GOP Senators, Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, told CNN “I think there is movement. I’ve had several conversations with Democrats”
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