Republicans Offer Their Own Unemployment-Insurance Plan

The five-month extension could endanger a separate Democratic bill.

OAKLAND, CA - JULY 11: A protester holds a sign during a demonstration against unemployment benefit cuts on July 11, 2012 in Oakland, California. Dozens of protesters with the group Union of Unemployed Workers staged a demonstration to protest cuts in unemployment benefits.
National Journal
Sarah Mimms
March 6, 2014, 2:41 p.m.

Sen­ate Re­pub­lic­ans re­leased their own le­gis­la­tion to ex­tend un­em­ploy­ment-in­sur­ance be­ne­fits Thursday even­ing, un­der­cut­ting a sep­ar­ate ef­fort offered by Sen. Jack Reed that has the sup­port of Demo­crat­ic lead­er­ship.

The Re­pub­lic­an plan would ex­tend the be­ne­fits, which kick in after an in­di­vidu­al has been un­em­ployed for at least 26 weeks, for five months in­clud­ing ret­ro­act­ive be­ne­fits. If passed im­me­di­ately by both cham­bers, the new be­ne­fits would ex­pire again for all be­ne­fi­ciar­ies in late May while Con­gress works to find a longer-term solu­tion. In oth­er words, those who hit the 26-week quota be­fore the ex­ten­sion is made law would get far less than five months of be­ne­fits.

Sig­ni­fic­antly, the pro­pos­al would re­quire be­ne­fi­ciar­ies to ac­cept any of­fer of “suit­able work” or any po­s­i­tion re­com­men­ded to them by a state em­ploy­ment agency.

The new pro­pos­al is co­sponsored by the very Re­pub­lic­an sen­at­ors that Demo­crats have been lob­by­ing to sup­port their own bill, po­ten­tially put­ting Reed’s six-month ex­ten­sion on ice. They are Sens. Dean Heller of Nevada, Susan Collins of Maine, Rob Port­man of Ohio, Dan Coats of Illinois, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Kelly Ayotte of New Hamp­shire, and Mark Kirk of Illinois. Heller, in par­tic­u­lar, has been work­ing with Reed and oth­er Sen­ate Demo­crats for months to re­in­state the be­ne­fits.

A Sen­ate Demo­crat­ic aide with know­ledge of the talks ex­pressed frus­tra­tion Wed­nes­day that Port­man was not ne­go­ti­at­ing “in good faith” and had be­gun pulling Re­pub­lic­an sup­port­ers away from the Demo­crat­ic solu­tion to­ward a pro­pos­al of his own.

“Since the be­gin­ning of the de­bate, I’ve stood ready to work in a bi­par­tis­an man­ner for a solu­tion for the long-term un­em­ployed,” Port­man said in a state­ment ac­com­pa­ny­ing the text of the bill. “I’m hope­ful my col­leagues on both sides will get be­hind this pro­pos­al so we can start work­ing on real, per­man­ent solu­tions for the Amer­ic­an people.”

Murkowski, who has voted in fa­vor of pre­vi­ous at­tempts to re­store the be­ne­fits, took an even harder line. She has been strongly crit­ic­al of Reed’s new plan, which would pay for the ex­ten­sion us­ing sav­ings from the farm bill, which Re­pub­lic­ans be­lieve will nev­er ma­ter­i­al­ize.

“If the Sen­ate does not and will not al­low this bill to come up for a vote — in­stead push­ing a party-line meas­ure paid for by budget gim­micks — it should be clear that they are more in­ter­ested in cable TV talk­ing points than help­ing Amer­ic­ans in need,” she said.

The Re­pub­lic­an plan would pay for the five-month ex­ten­sion by ex­tend­ing cus­toms user fees through 2024, pre­vent­ing be­ne­fi­ciar­ies from also re­ceiv­ing So­cial Se­cur­ity dis­ab­il­ity in­sur­ance, and ex­tend­ing pen­sion smooth­ing (which would al­low em­ploy­ers to con­trib­ute less to their em­ploy­ees’ pen­sion plans). Not­ably, Re­pub­lic­ans re­jec­ted the lat­ter off­set earli­er in the ne­go­ti­ations.

The bill would also re­form the over­all pro­gram, re­quir­ing state and fed­er­al agen­cies in­volved to identi­fy why an ap­plic­ant is un­em­ployed and “identi­fy steps” that per­son should take “to im­prove em­ploy­ment pro­spects.” It would also pre­vent “mil­lion­aires and bil­lion­aires” from re­ceiv­ing the be­ne­fits, ac­cord­ing to a re­lease.

Also on Thursday, House Demo­crats made a stronger push for an ex­ten­sion in a let­ter to House Speak­er John Boehner signed by 161 of their mem­bers. The let­ter cites a re­port from the Cen­ter on Budget and Policy Pri­or­it­ies es­tim­at­ing that 200,000 vet­er­ans have now lost their un­em­ploy­ment-in­sur­ance be­ne­fits.

What We're Following See More »
STAFF PICKS
What the Current Crop of Candidates Could Learn from JFK
1 days ago
WHY WE CARE

Much has been made of David Brooks’s recent New York Times column, in which confesses to missing already the civility and humanity of Barack Obama, compared to who might take his place. In NewYorker.com, Jeffrey Frank reminds us how critical such attributes are to foreign policy. “It’s hard to imagine Kennedy so casually referring to the leader of Russia as a gangster or a thug. For that matter, it’s hard to imagine any president comparing the Russian leader to Hitler [as] Hillary Clinton did at a private fund-raiser. … Kennedy, who always worried that miscalculation could lead to war, paid close attention to the language of diplomacy.”

Source:
STAFF PICKS
Maher Weighs in on Bernie, Trump and Palin
1 days ago
WHY WE CARE

“We haven’t seen a true leftist since FDR, so many millions are coming out of the woodwork to vote for Bernie Sanders; he is the Occupy movement now come to life in the political arena.” So says Bill Maher in his Hollywood Reporter cover story (more a stream-of-consciousness riff than an essay, actually). Conservative states may never vote for a socialist in the general election, but “this stuff has never been on the table, and these voters have never been activated.” Maher saves most of his bile for Donald Trump and Sarah Palin, writing that by nominating Palin as vice president “John McCain is the one who opened the Book of the Dead and let the monsters out.” And Trump is picking up where Palin left off.

Source:
×