House Dems Dreaming of Extending Unemployment Insurance by Christmas

WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 23: House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) answers questions during a press conference October 23, 2013 in Washington, DC. Pelosi answered questions on the problems surrounding the website for the Affordable Care Act during her remarks. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
National Journal
Elahe Izadi
See more stories about...
Elahe Izadi
Dec. 5, 2013, 3:27 p.m.

Stan Os­now­itz has been out of work since his last job as an elec­tri­cian ended in Ju­ly. The 67-year-old from Bal­timore says he still wakes up around 4 a.m. every day to look for work, while re­ly­ing on state un­em­ploy­ment be­ne­fits that are sched­uled to run out in Janu­ary.

“I hate be­ing un­em­ployed. It’s a waste of my time, my abil­it­ies,” Os­now­itz told the House Demo­crat­ic Steer­ing Com­mit­tee on Thursday, which in­vited a hand­ful of long-term un­em­ployed Amer­ic­ans to talk about un­em­ploy­ment be­ne­fits. “If Con­gress lets the un­em­ploy­ment in­sur­ance shut down, I won’t even be able to put gas in my car to look for a job.”

After his state un­em­ploy­ment be­ne­fits run out, Os­now­itz will join 1.3 mil­lion people who will no longer re­ceive fed­er­al emer­gency un­em­ploy­ment in­sur­ance on Dec. 28, un­less Con­gress ex­tends the pro­gram.

But as of this week, the be­ne­fit doesn’t ap­pear to be mak­ing its way in­to a budget deal. That could change, of course; the budget con­fer­ence, which hasn’t reached a deal yet, has a Dec. 13 dead­line. And a week is a long time on the Hill.

A House Re­pub­lic­an staffer with know­ledge of the budget talks said he would be “very sur­prised” if the ex­ten­sion was in­cluded in a fi­nal budget deal, giv­en wide­spread op­pos­i­tion among the GOP — al­though he couldn’t rule any­thing out.

“If the pres­id­ent has a plan for ex­tend­ing un­em­ploy­ment be­ne­fits, I’d surely en­ter­tain tak­ing a look at it,” House Speak­er John Boehner told re­port­ers Thursday. “But I would ar­gue that the pres­id­ent’s real fo­cus ought to be cre­at­ing a bet­ter en­vir­on­ment for our eco­nomy and cre­at­ing more jobs for the Amer­ic­an people. That’s where the fo­cus is, not more gov­ern­ment pro­grams.”

Asked wheth­er he thinks it should be ex­ten­ded for ad­di­tion­al weeks, Boehner re­spon­ded: “I’m not the ex­pert. Talk to the chair­man of the Ways and Means Com­mit­tee.”

House Ma­jor­ity Lead­er Eric Can­tor said ex­tend­ing the pro­gram would “lead to a great­er de­fi­cit,” and he cited a Con­gres­sion­al Budget Of­fice re­port to ar­gue that some who are eli­gible for the be­ne­fit would re­duce the in­tens­ity of their job searches and re­main un­em­ployed longer. The re­port es­tim­ated mod­est neg­at­ive ef­fects.

Ex­tend­ing the pro­gram has be­come a ma­jor pri­or­ity for Demo­crats. House Minor­ity Whip Steny Hoy­er said his caucus would op­pose the House ad­journ­ing on Dec. 13 if it hasn’t been passed. Demo­crats point to a re­port re­leased Thursday by the pres­id­ent’s Coun­cil of Eco­nom­ic Ad­visers show­ing an­oth­er 3.6 mil­lion stand to lose the in­sur­ance by the end of 2014. The CBO also es­tim­ated that ex­tend­ing the cur­rent pro­gram for an­oth­er year will add 200,000 jobs and 0.2 per­cent to the gross do­mest­ic product, as well as in­crease the de­fi­cit by $25 bil­lion over 10 years.

“We are mak­ing a very clear state­ment that we can­not, can­not sup­port a budget agree­ment that does not in­clude un­em­ploy­ment in­sur­ance, in the budget or as a side­bar to move it all along,” House Minor­ity Lead­er Nancy Pelosi said Thursday morn­ing. By the af­ter­noon, she ap­peared to walk that strategy back a bit, say­ing that she hopes it can be part of a budget deal but that it doesn’t have to be: “It could be its own vehicle as we go for­ward,” she said. “But I still do want to see an un­em­ploy­ment bill.”

Re­pub­lic­an House Budget Com­mit­tee Chair­man Paul Ry­an is ne­go­ti­at­ing the budget deal with his Demo­crat­ic Sen­ate coun­ter­part, Patty Mur­ray. Ac­cord­ing to Mur­ray spokes­man Eli Zupnick, the sen­at­or “would like to ex­tend [un­em­ploy­ment in­sur­ance] in the budget con­fer­ence, has made it clear that she will be push­ing for it, and it re­mains an open item in the dis­cus­sions.”

In Oc­to­ber, the un­em­ploy­ment rate was 7.3 per­cent, and about 4.1 mil­lion Amer­ic­ans were clas­si­fied as long-term un­em­ployed — mean­ing for 27 weeks or more, ac­cord­ing to the Bur­eau of Labor Stat­ist­ics. The fed­er­al emer­gency be­ne­fit kicks in once state be­ne­fits are ex­hausted, which is 26 weeks in most places.

House Re­pub­lic­ans are op­posed to ex­tend­ing the be­ne­fit. House Ways and Means Chair­man Dave Camp, R-Mich., has said he hopes it ex­pires. Re­pub­lic­ans have ar­gued that it in­creases the de­fi­cit and keeps people from look­ing for jobs. Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., a mem­ber of the budget con­fer­ence com­mit­tee, told Na­tion­al Journ­al Daily that “my view is still it’s very un­likely to garner the votes to pass.”

“That’s a pretty big item to fig­ure out how to fund,” Cole later said. “The pres­id­ent would need to sub­mit a plan and sort of tell us how he en­vi­sions pay­ing for it. This stuff which at some point was sup­posed to end, … at some point it has to stop; if there’s a real eco­nom­ic re­cov­ery, you don’t need un­em­ploy­ment [in­sur­ance] at this level for this ex­ten­ded peri­od of time.”

House Ways and Means rank­ing mem­ber Sander Lev­in, D-Mich., told Na­tion­al Journ­al Daily that the be­ne­fit, which first passed in 2008, has tra­di­tion­ally been ex­ten­ded as an emer­gency meas­ure without a pay-for. Con­gress last ex­ten­ded it as part of the fisc­al-cliff deal.

Lev­in said his side has tried to en­gage Re­pub­lic­ans. “At this point, they don’t have a clear po­s­i­tion. I take what the speak­er said today as en­cour­aging.”

Pres­id­ent Obama has called on Con­gress to ex­tend the be­ne­fit, but the ad­min­is­tra­tion is not sig­nal­ing the is­sue as a make-or-break on a fi­nal budget deal. White House press sec­ret­ary Jay Car­ney de­clined to say wheth­er Obama would sign a budget deal without the ex­ten­sion. “What I can’t do is ne­go­ti­ate budget com­prom­ises from here,” he told re­port­ers Thursday. “The pres­id­ent strongly sup­ports the ex­ten­sion of un­em­ploy­ment in­sur­ance be­ne­fits.”

Sarah Mimms contributed contributed to this article.
What We're Following See More »
ANOTHER MEETING WITH PRIEBUS
Trump to Meet with Ryan, Leadership Next Week
1 minutes ago
THE LATEST

A day after saying he could not yet support Donald Trump's presidential bid, House Speaker Paul Ryan has invited the billionaire to a meeting in Washington next week with House leadership. Ryan and Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus will also meet separately with Trump. 

Source:
‘EXACTING STANDARDS’
Obama on Trump: ‘This Is a Really Serious Job’
19 minutes ago
THE DETAILS

"President Obama used the White House podium on Friday to dismiss Donald Trump as an unserious candidate to succeed him, and said leading the country isn't a job that's suited to reality show antics." At a briefing with reporters, the president said, "I just want to emphasize the degree to which we are in serious times and this is a really serious job. This is not entertainment. This is not a reality show. This is a contest for the presidency of the United States. And what that means is that every candidate, every nominee needs to be subject to exacting standards and genuine scrutiny."

Source:
MORE EXECUTIVE ORDERS
Panama Papers Spur White House to Crack Down on Evasion
2 hours ago
THE DETAILS

In the The White House on Thursday night unveiled a series of executive actions to combat money laundering—"among the most comprehensive response yet to the Panama Papers revelations." The president's orders will tighten transparency rules, close loopholes that allow "foreigners to hide financial activity behind anonymous entities in the U.S., and demand stricter “customer due diligence” rules for banks.

Source:
THE QUESTION
Who’s #NeverTrump Courting as Possible Candidates
2 hours ago
THE ANSWER

The #NeverTrump movement is now mulling the idea of recruiting a candidate to run as an independent or under a third-party banner. But who might it be? The Hill offers a preliminary list.

  • Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE)
  • Mitt Romney
  • 2012 (and perhaps 2016) Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson
  • Former Marine Gen. John Kelly
  • Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI)
  • Former Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK)
  • South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley
  • Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY)
Source:
362,000 JOBS ADDED
‘Mildly Disappointing’ Jobs Report
3 hours ago
THE DETAILS

The U.S. economy added 160,000 jobs in April, a "mildly disappointing" result relative to the 200,000 expected, according to the New York Times' Neil Irwin. On the plus side, hourly earnings were up 2.5% from a year ago. But on the other hand, "the labor force shrank by 362,000 people and the labor force participation rate fell by 0.2 percentage points."

Source:
×