Democrats Hope a Break Will Change Republicans’ Minds on Unemployment Insurance

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WASHINGTON - JUNE 30:  U.S. Senate Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) listens during a news conference June 30, 2011 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. Reid said earlier that the July 4th recess will be cancelled for dealing with the debt ceiling talks.  (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
National Journal
Michael Catalini
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Michael Catalini
Jan. 16, 2014, 8:23 a.m.

Sen­ate Demo­crats are bet­ting that a week in their home states will per­suade Re­pub­lic­ans to change their minds on an un­em­ploy­ment-in­sur­ance meas­ure that they blocked this week.

As­sist­ant Ma­jor­ity Lead­er Dick Durbin said Thursday he plans to bring an­oth­er ex­ten­sion of the be­ne­fits, which ex­pired on Dec. 28, to the floor when the Sen­ate re­turns after the Mar­tin Luth­er King Jr. hol­i­day break.

“I think it’s im­port­ant for the Re­pub­lic­ans to go home “¦ and ex­plain to the people in their re­spect­ive states — these Re­pub­lic­ans — why they didn’t give these people these be­ne­fits be­cause of pro­cess,” Ma­jor­ity Lead­er Harry Re­id said. Pro­ced­ur­ally, bring­ing the bill craf­ted by Sens. Jack Reed, D-R.I., and Dean Heller, R-Nev., would be pos­sible be­cause Re­id filed a mo­tion to re­con­sider.

In terms of policy, Demo­crats view the ex­ten­sion as a means to bol­ster the eco­nomy, be­cause the be­ne­fits would in­ject cash in­to the sys­tem and be­cause they be­lieve the safety net catches Amer­ic­ans in need. But the be­ne­fits could also serve as a polit­ic­al boon to Demo­crats, who con­trast their de­sire to help Amer­ic­ans in need with what they cast as a Re­pub­lic­an con­fer­ence overly con­cerned with Sen­ate pro­ced­ure.

Re­id poin­ted to a one-year paid-for ver­sion of the bill that was blocked this week as an ex­ample of what he called a Re­pub­lic­an fili­buster. But Re­pub­lic­ans ac­cur­ately make the case that Re­id blocked them from of­fer­ing amend­ments. Minor­ity Lead­er Mitch Mc­Con­nell this week, call­ing the be­ne­fits im­port­ant, cast blame on Re­id for thwart­ing Re­pub­lic­ans’ abil­ity to of­fer amend­ments of their choos­ing.

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