Changing of the Guard in House Leadership Does Little for Unemployment Insurance Prospects

Senate Republican supporters are wary of signing onto another bill that’s going nowhere.

WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 03: Senators Dean Heller (R-NV), left, and Jack Reed (D-RI) speak to the press after a 61-35 vote in the Senate to advance the previous Reed-Heller unemployment insurance bill on April 3, 2014.
National Journal
Sarah Mimms
See more stories about...
Sarah Mimms
June 24, 2014, 8:13 a.m.

Sens. Jack Reed and Dean Heller in­tro­duced an un­em­ploy­ment-in­sur­ance bill on Tues­day morn­ing, of­fer­ing new le­gis­la­tion that looks very much like the bill they passed in April that failed to gain any in­terest from House Re­pub­lic­an lead­er­ship be­fore it ex­pired in May.

“What I was hop­ing would be a sprint has be­come a mara­thon,” Heller joked Tues­day.

The new bi­par­tis­an bill would re­store un­em­ploy­ment-in­sur­ance be­ne­fits for five months but would not be not ret­ro­act­ive to last Decem­ber. It is, however, pro­tec­ted by the same off­sets as the pre­vi­ous Sen­ate bill — which were called “gim­micks” by many House Re­pub­lic­ans and a num­ber of their coun­ter­parts in the Sen­ate — and does not in­clude a sep­ar­ate jobs pro­vi­sion, something House Speak­er John Boehner has said would be ne­ces­sary for his cham­ber to con­sider it.

The Sen­ate’s new bill would cost a little less than $10 bil­lion and cov­er five months of be­ne­fits. Un­like the pre­vi­ous Sen­ate bill that ex­pired on May 31, the new five-month count­down won’t be­gin un­til after the pres­id­ent signs the le­gis­la­tion, pre­vent­ing sen­at­ors from hav­ing to start over again like they did last time.

Giv­en the lack of sub­stan­tial changes to the bill, even staunch sup­port­ers say pas­sage ap­pears un­likely. “I think it’s go­ing to be very tough,” Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said.

But Heller and Reed, whose home states of Nevada and Rhode Is­land have the highest un­em­ploy­ment rates in the coun­try, re­main pos­it­ive. “I think this can get done,” Heller said at a press con­fer­ence Tues­day. “It’s go­ing to take more sides work­ing to­geth­er, try­ing to solve this prob­lem.”

Heller began this week with a po­ten­tial ace in his pock­et: a close ally who re­cently rose up in the ranks of House lead­er­ship.

At first, the elec­tion of Kev­in Mc­Carthy of Cali­for­nia to House ma­jor­ity lead­er Thursday looked like a good sign for un­em­ploy­ment in­sur­ance ad­voc­ates. Heller and Mc­Carthy were both mem­bers of the class of 2006 in the House and hail from neigh­bor­ing states. When mur­murs of Eric Can­tor’s resig­na­tion began two weeks ago, Heller crossed the Cap­it­ol to drop by Mc­Carthy’s of­fice and of­fer his sup­port. The two didn’t dis­cuss un­em­ploy­ment in­sur­ance in that meet­ing, but the close re­la­tion­ship between Heller and Mc­Carthy offered a ray of hope that, at the very least, Heller’s in­terest in the is­sue would be heard.

Heller has since called the new ma­jor­ity lead­er and re­ceived some dis­ap­point­ing news: Mc­Carthy and Boehner are on the same page. “His mes­sage was very clear. It was very sim­il­ar to Boehner’s — very sim­il­ar to Boehner’s — and that is, ‘We want job pro­vi­sions,’ ” Heller said, adding that their con­ver­sa­tions will con­tin­ue. Boehner has called re­peatedly on Pres­id­ent Obama to make a deal with the House, of­fer­ing re­forms to en­ergy, taxes, or the health care law, Heller sug­ges­ted, in re­turn for an ex­ten­sion of un­em­ploy­ment-in­sur­ance be­ne­fits.

Heller is still hope­ful, and has said re­peatedly in re­cent weeks that he’s sym­path­et­ic to the House mem­bers’ con­cerns. The cham­ber has about 40 jobs bills lan­guish­ing in the Sen­ate and would like to see one or more brought to the floor in ex­change for a vote on un­em­ploy­ment in­sur­ance.

Heller said he has spoken with Obama about the is­sue, and was grate­ful for his sup­port, but he called on the pres­id­ent to take a more act­ive role on the is­sue. “I know this is­sue is im­port­ant to the pres­id­ent,” he said “He needs to be more en­gaged. He needs to pick up the phone and talk to the speak­er and say, ‘Hey, how can we get this done?’ ” Heller said.

But Reed, a Demo­crat, said that the Sen­ate has already jumped through a num­ber of hoops for House Re­pub­lic­ans — pay­ing for both Sen­ate bills and re­mov­ing ret­ro­act­ive be­ne­fits, which the House ar­gued would be dif­fi­cult to ad­min­is­ter, in the new le­gis­la­tion — and he called ad­di­tion­al con­cerns from the House “not reas­ons [to not pass the Sen­ate bills], but ex­cuses.”More than 3 mil­lion Amer­ic­ans have lost their un­em­ploy­ment-in­sur­ance be­ne­fits since the pro­gram ex­pired last year, he noted. “I don’t think we can leave these fam­il­ies be­hind,” he said.

And with sum­mer com­ing and un­rest in the Middle East, Heller ad­ded, this le­gis­la­tion is more im­port­ant than even. Heller said he is grow­ing con­cerned about gas prices go­ing up dur­ing travel sea­son and put­ting even more fam­il­ies in a fin­an­cial bind.

For now, the lack of move­ment in the House has even some Sen­ate ad­voc­ates for re­form balk­ing at the idea of an­oth­er vote that’s head­ing nowhere. “You know, how many times do we have to go through this ex­er­cise without the House ac­tu­ally show­ing some in­terest or mak­ing some move­ment so that we can all jump on board,” Heller said of Re­pub­lic­an sup­port­ers. “They don’t want to go through this ex­er­cise over and over again. And they’ll end up cast­ing the ap­pro­pri­ate votes, but they want this le­gis­la­tion [to be­come law].”

Al­though the new le­gis­la­tion does not in­clude ret­ro­act­ive be­ne­fits for those who stopped re­ceiv­ing checks after un­em­ploy­ment in­sur­ance ex­pired in Decem­ber, it will al­low those who had not yet com­pleted the pro­gram to re­sume re­ceiv­ing be­ne­fits for however many weeks they had left when the pro­gram ex­pired.

What We're Following See More »
STAFF PICKS
These (Supposed) Iowa and NH Escorts Tell All
6 hours ago
NATIONAL JOURNAL AFTER DARK

Before we get to the specifics of this exposé about escorts working the Iowa and New Hampshire primary crowds, let’s get three things out of the way: 1.) It’s from Cosmopolitan; 2.) most of the women quoted use fake (if colorful) names; and 3.) again, it’s from Cosmopolitan. That said, here’s what we learned:

  • Business was booming: one escort who says she typically gets two inquiries a weekend got 15 requests in the pre-primary weekend.
  • Their primary season clientele is a bit older than normal—”40s through mid-60s, compared with mostly twentysomething regulars” and “they’ve clearly done this before.”
  • They seemed more nervous than other clients, because “the stakes are higher when you’re working for a possible future president” but “all practiced impeccable manners.”
  • One escort “typically enjoy[s] the company of Democrats more, just because I feel like our views line up a lot more.”
Source:
STATE VS. FEDERAL
Restoring Some Sanity to Encryption
6 hours ago
WHY WE CARE

No matter where you stand on mandating companies to include a backdoor in encryption technologies, it doesn’t make sense to allow that decision to be made on a state level. “The problem with state-level legislation of this nature is that it manages to be both wildly impractical and entirely unenforceable,” writes Brian Barrett at Wired. There is a solution to this problem. “California Congressman Ted Lieu has introduced the ‘Ensuring National Constitutional Rights for Your Private Telecommunications Act of 2016,’ which we’ll call ENCRYPT. It’s a short, straightforward bill with a simple aim: to preempt states from attempting to implement their own anti-encryption policies at a state level.”

Source:
STAFF PICKS
What the Current Crop of Candidates Could Learn from JFK
6 hours 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
Hillary Is Running Against the Bill of 1992
6 hours ago
WHY WE CARE

The New Covenant. The Third Way. The Democratic Leadership Council style. Call it what you will, but whatever centrist triangulation Bill Clinton embraced in 1992, Hillary Clinton wants no part of it in 2016. Writing for Bloomberg, Sasha Issenberg and Margaret Talev explore how Hillary’s campaign has “diverged pointedly” from what made Bill so successful: “For Hillary to survive, Clintonism had to die.” Bill’s positions in 1992—from capital punishment to free trade—“represented a carefully calibrated diversion from the liberal orthodoxy of the previous decade.” But in New Hampshire, Hillary “worked to juggle nostalgia for past Clinton primary campaigns in the state with the fact that the Bill of 1992 or the Hillary of 2008 would likely be a marginal figure within today’s Democratic politics.”

Source:
STAFF PICKS
Trevor Noah Needs to Find His Voice. And Fast.
7 hours ago
WHY WE CARE

At first, “it was pleasant” to see Trevor Noah “smiling away and deeply dimpling in the Stewart seat, the seat that had lately grown gray hairs,” writes The Atlantic‘s James Parker in assessing the new host of the once-indispensable Daily Show. But where Jon Stewart was a heavyweight, Noah is “a very able lightweight, [who] needs time too. But he won’t get any. As a culture, we’re not about to nurture this talent, to give it room to grow. Our patience was exhausted long ago, by some other guy. We’re going to pass judgment and move on. There’s a reason Simon Cowell is so rich. Impress us today or get thee hence. So it comes to this: It’s now or never, Trevor.”

Source:
×