Will Boehner Blink on Jobless Benefits?

Speaker of the House John Boehner.
National Journal
Sarah Mimms and Michael Catalini
Sarah Mimms Michael Catalini
Jan. 5, 2014, 7 a.m.

More than a mil­lion un­em­ployed Amer­ic­ans could soon re­ceive a post-hol­i­day bo­nus check from the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment, if con­gres­sion­al Demo­crats get their way.

The Sen­ate will take up a bill Monday even­ing to re­store un­em­ploy­ment-in­sur­ance be­ne­fits to the 1.3 mil­lion Amer­ic­ans who stopped re­ceiv­ing checks just three days after Christ­mas, after Con­gress chose not to ex­tend the pro­gram.

The meas­ure will con­tin­ue the be­ne­fits for three months and re­im­burse the long-term un­em­ployed for the weeks of lost be­ne­fits in Decem­ber and Janu­ary while Con­gress gets to work on a long-term solu­tion.

The vote ful­fills a prom­ise Sen­ate Ma­jor­ity Lead­er Harry Re­id made be­fore the close of the last con­gres­sion­al ses­sion to deal with the be­ne­fits in Janu­ary, after House Re­pub­lic­ans blocked an ex­ten­sion from be­ing in­cluded in the fi­nal budget bill and left town for the hol­i­days.

The meas­ure, sponsored by Sens. Jack Reed, D-R.I., and Dean Heller, R-Nev. — who rep­res­ent the two states with the highest un­em­ploy­ment rates in the na­tion — will have to clear a clo­ture hurdle on Monday, which means that five Re­pub­lic­ans will have to vote with the en­tire Demo­crat­ic caucus for the Sen­ate to pro­ceed to the bill.

But even if it clears the Sen­ate, the bill faces an up­hill climb in the House, where the Re­pub­lic­an lead­er­ship has signaled op­pos­i­tion to ex­tend­ing the be­ne­fit without pay­ing for it.

“I think it’s go­ing to be a pretty tough sell,” Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., said be­fore the hol­i­day re­cess.

House Speak­er John Boehner told re­port­ers last month that he would con­sider re­new­ing the be­ne­fits if Con­gress could off­set the cost. Demo­crats pushed hard in a me­dia blitz over the re­cess to bring at­ten­tion to the is­sue, hop­ing to ratchet up pres­sure on Re­pub­lic­ans to ac­cept an ex­ten­sion without an off­set. But Boehner’s po­s­i­tion has not changed, ac­cord­ing to spokes­man Mi­chael Steel.

Be­fore leav­ing for the hol­i­day, Rep. Chris Van Hol­len, D-Md., pro­posed us­ing sav­ings ex­pec­ted in the farm bill to pay for the ex­ten­sion, but Re­pub­lic­ans blocked that idea. The Sen­ate bill does not in­clude any off­sets, and Demo­crats, who view re­new­ing the be­ne­fits as an emer­gency, are re­luct­ant to put any such pay-fors on the table.

“There’s no secret back pock­et,” House Minor­ity Whip Steny Hoy­er told re­port­ers Fri­day when asked wheth­er Demo­crats were weigh­ing any po­ten­tial off­sets.

The Reed-Heller bill, which ex­tends be­ne­fits through March 31, has a $6.5 bil­lion price tag and sets up an­oth­er po­ten­tial show­down over the be­ne­fits that could co­in­cide with a con­gres­sion­al throw-down over the debt lim­it later this year. That might not be a bad omen, from the point of view of those de­pend­ing on the be­ne­fits, be­cause law­makers have yoked un­em­ploy­ment in­sur­ance and the debt ceil­ing to­geth­er be­fore. Con­gress paired the last ex­ten­sion — the one that ex­pired in Decem­ber — with the fisc­al-cliff le­gis­la­tion that passed in early 2013.

But the debt-lim­it fight may not come to a head for months, and the ma­jor­ity of those who lost their un­em­ploy­ment in­sur­ance be­ne­fits on Dec. 28 had already been out of work for at least 26 weeks, re­ly­ing on state sup­port be­fore the fed­er­al funds kicked in.

Even ret­ro­act­ive le­gis­la­tion could come too late for some of the fam­il­ies who rely on the be­ne­fits, if the ex­ten­sion fight con­tin­ues to drag on, Demo­crat­ic lead­ers in both cham­bers are push­ing fam­il­ies to come for­ward with their stor­ies, hop­ing to in­crease the pres­sure on Re­pub­lic­ans to act.

“Let’s say the bliz­zard left 1.3 mil­lion people without money,” said Rep. Sander Lev­in, D-Mich., re­fer­ring to the storm that dumped snow on much of the na­tion Fri­day. “I think then there’d be a real­iz­a­tion that it’s an emer­gency.”

For now, with little lever­age of their own, House Demo­crats are bet­ting the com­bin­a­tion of swift Sen­ate pas­sage and those heart-rend­ing stor­ies from con­stitu­ents will per­suade Re­pub­lic­ans to take up the bill.

“I hope it will be passed by the Sen­ate,” Van Hol­len said. “That will provide some mo­mentum in the House. I think that can make it more dif­fi­cult for the speak­er to re­fuse to take ac­tion.”

Elahe Izadi contributed to this article.
What We're Following See More »
BACKING OUT ON BERNIE
Trump Won’t Debate Sanders After All
1 days ago
THE LATEST

Trump, in a statement: “Based on the fact that the Democratic nominating process is totally rigged and Crooked Hillary Clinton and Deborah Wasserman Schultz will not allow Bernie Sanders to win, and now that I am the presumptive Republican nominee, it seems inappropriate that I would debate the second place finisher. ... I will wait to debate the first place finisher in the Democratic Party, probably Crooked Hillary Clinton, or whoever it may be.”

AKNOWLEDGING THE INEVITABLE
UAW: Time to Unite Behind Hillary
3 days ago
THE DETAILS

"It's about time for unity," said UAW President Dennis Williams. "We're endorsing Hillary Clinton. She's gotten 3 million more votes than Bernie, a million more votes than Donald Trump. She's our nominee." He called Sanders "a great friend of the UAW" while saying Trump "does not support the economic security of UAW families." Some 28 percent of UAW members indicated their support for Trump in an internal survey.

Source:
AP KEEPING COUNT
Trump Clinches Enough Delegates for the Nomination
3 days ago
THE LATEST

"Donald Trump on Thursday reached the number of delegates needed to clinch the Republican nomination for president, completing an unlikely rise that has upended the political landscape and sets the stage for a bitter fall campaign. Trump was put over the top in the Associated Press delegate count by a small number of the party's unbound delegates who told the AP they would support him at the convention."

Source:
TRUMP FLOATED IDEA ON JIMMY KIMMEL’S SHOW
Trump/Sanders Debate Before California Primary?
3 days ago
THE LATEST
CAMPAIGNS INJECTED NEW AD MONEY
California: It’s Not Over Yet
3 days ago
THE LATEST

"Clinton and Bernie Sanders "are now devoting additional money to television advertising. A day after Sanders announced a new ad buy of less than $2 million in the state, Clinton announced her own television campaign. Ads featuring actor Morgan Freeman as well as labor leader and civil rights activist Dolores Huerta will air beginning on Fridayin Fresno, Sacramento, and Los Angeles media markets. Some ads will also target Latino voters and Asian American voters. The total value of the buy is about six figures according to the Clinton campaign." Meanwhile, a new poll shows Sanders within the margin of error, trailing Clinton 44%-46%.

Source:
×