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 »
WEST WING REDUX
Allison Janney Takes to the Real White House Podium
2 hours ago
WHY WE CARE

Carolyn Kaster/AP

STAFF PICKS
When It Comes to Mining Asteroids, Technology Is Only the First Problem
2 hours ago
WHY WE CARE

Foreign Policy takes a look at the future of mining the estimated "100,000 near-Earth objects—including asteroids and comets—in the neighborhood of our planet. Some of these NEOs, as they’re called, are small. Others are substantial and potentially packed full of water and various important minerals, such as nickel, cobalt, and iron. One day, advocates believe, those objects will be tapped by variations on the equipment used in the coal mines of Kentucky or in the diamond mines of Africa. And for immense gain: According to industry experts, the contents of a single asteroid could be worth trillions of dollars." But the technology to get us there is only the first step. Experts say "a multinational body might emerge" to manage rights to NEOs, as well as a body of law, including an international court.

Source:
STAFF PICKS
Obama Reflects on His Economic Record
3 hours ago
WHY WE CARE

Not to be outdone by Jeffrey Goldberg's recent piece in The Atlantic about President Obama's foreign policy, the New York Times Magazine checks in with a longread on the president's economic legacy. In it, Obama is cognizant that the economic reality--73 straight months of growth--isn't matched by public perceptions. Some of that, he says, is due to a constant drumbeat from the right that "that denies any progress." But he also accepts some blame himself. “I mean, the truth of the matter is that if we had been able to more effectively communicate all the steps we had taken to the swing voter,” he said, “then we might have maintained a majority in the House or the Senate.”

Source:
STAFF PICKS
Reagan Families, Allies Lash Out at Will Ferrell
4 hours ago
WHY WE CARE

Ronald Reagan's children and political allies took to the media and Twitter this week to chide funnyman Will Ferrell for his plans to play a dementia-addled Reagan in his second term in a new comedy entitled Reagan. In an open letter, Reagan's daughter Patti Davis tells Ferrell, who's also a producer on the movie, “Perhaps for your comedy you would like to visit some dementia facilities. I have—I didn’t find anything comedic there, and my hope would be that if you’re a decent human being, you wouldn’t either.” Michael Reagan, the president's son, tweeted, "What an Outrag....Alzheimers is not joke...It kills..You should be ashamed all of you." And former Rep. Joe Walsh called it an example of "Hollywood taking a shot at conservatives again."

Source:
PEAK CONFIDENCE
Clinton No Longer Running Primary Ads
7 hours ago
WHY WE CARE

In a sign that she’s ready to put a longer-than-ex­pec­ted primary battle be­hind her, former Sec­ret­ary of State Hil­lary Clin­ton (D) is no longer go­ing on the air in up­com­ing primary states. “Team Clin­ton hasn’t spent a single cent in … Cali­for­nia, In­di­ana, Ken­tucky, Ore­gon and West Vir­gin­ia, while” Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT) “cam­paign has spent a little more than $1 mil­lion in those same states.” Meanwhile, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Sanders’ "lone back­er in the Sen­ate, said the can­did­ate should end his pres­id­en­tial cam­paign if he’s los­ing to Hil­lary Clin­ton after the primary sea­son con­cludes in June, break­ing sharply with the can­did­ate who is vow­ing to take his in­sur­gent bid to the party con­ven­tion in Phil­adelphia.”

Source:
×