ST. PAUL - The prospect of quickly extending unemployment benefits for laid-off steelworkers on the Iron Range continues to be mired in politics.

In advance of next week's start to the legislative session, a House committee passed a bill Thursday that would extend unemployment benefits for Iron Range workers for 26 weeks. But the bill also includes language that would cut taxes for businesses that furnish the state's unemployment trust fund, which has a $1.6 billion surplus.

DFL legislators want a bill that would only extend benefits, saying the conversation on tax cuts can wait. Republicans say the cuts are needed relief for employers that have paid into the fund, and are something Democrats have supported in the recent past.

Lawmakers still hope to extend benefits when the full Legislature convenes next week.