Could it be? An actual deal in the works to reinstate the extended unemployment benefits that expired just after Christmas? More than 2 million long-term unemployed have lost their benefits since Dec. 28 -- 1.2 million immediately and 72,000 a week since. With more than 4 million people who have been looking for jobs for more than six months, that's a lot of misery and fear, even with the job market picking up marginally. A bi-partisan panel led by Sens. Jack Reed, D-R.I., and Dean Heller, R-Nev., late last week issued a statement saying they had come up with a deal to reinstate the benefits -- and pay for them, an issue close to the Tea Party's heart. The deal is for five months and already has lined up an impressive list of sponsors: Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, Rob Portman, R-Ohio, Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, Mark Kirk, R-Ill., Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., Cory Booker, D-N.J., Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, and Dick Durbin, D-Ill. The benefits would be retroactive to Dec. 28 but those making $1 million or more last year are excluded, about 0.3 percent of all filers. "There are a lot of good people looking for work and I am pleased we're finally able to reach a strong, bipartisan consensus to get them some help," Reed said in a press release announcing the deal. "Restoring this much needed economic lifeline will help job seekers, boost our economy, and provide a little certainty to families, businesses, and the markets that Congress is capable of coming together to do the right thing." Reed noted there's still a way to go before "this ... bi-partisan breakthrough" is adopted, namely the 60-vote threshold needed to bring the measure to the Senate floor. Heller said the time taken to work out the deal has "been extremely difficult" for those who lost their benefits "unsure of how to pay the bills or feed their families." The measure would pay for the benefits through "pension smoothing" provisions (which have to do with calculating interest rates) from the 2012 highway bill that had been set to begin expiring this year, and extending customs user fees through 2024. The bill also has an offset that would give single-employer pension plans the option of prepaying their flat rate premiums to the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. The White House lauded the measure.