Heller-Boehner Unemployment Insurance Chat Goes Nowhere

A Heller staffer characterized the conversation as “good,” but Boehner repeated what he’s already told the White House.

Speaker of the House John Boehner.
National Journal
Sarah Mimms
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Sarah Mimms
April 30, 2014, 1 a.m.

Sen. Dean Heller, one of the biggest ad­voc­ates for un­em­ploy­ment in­sur­ance in Con­gress, called Speak­er John Boehner on Tues­day af­ter­noon to push the House to take up le­gis­la­tion ex­tend­ing the in­sur­ance be­ne­fits. But that chat ended just about where it began: It went nowhere.

Heller spokes­wo­man Chand­ler Smith de­scribed the con­ver­sa­tion as “good,” but ad­ded: “Speak­er Boehner re­layed the same mes­sage that he gave to the White House. Sen­at­or Heller will con­tin­ue to work to get something done.”

Boehner spokes­man Mi­chael Steel offered the same syn­op­sis. “The Speak­er spoke by tele­phone with Sen. Heller today, and told him the same thing he has told the White House since be­fore Christ­mas: we’re will­ing to look at a plan that is paid-for and in­cludes something to help cre­ate jobs. Un­for­tu­nately [Sen­ate Ma­jor­ity Lead­er Harry] Re­id ruled out adding jobs pro­vi­sions,” Steel said in an email.

Time is run­ning out for Heller and oth­er ad­voc­ates to get the Sen­ate le­gis­la­tion through the House. The bill ex­tends un­em­ploy­ment-in­sur­ance be­ne­fits through the end of May — just over four weeks away. Heller and Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., said earli­er this month that if the House did not take up the le­gis­la­tion soon there would come a point when ne­go­ti­at­ors would have to start over. “There is a very short win­dow,” Reed said.

But Heller poin­ted out Tues­day that the Sen­ate bill also in­cludes ret­ro­act­ive be­ne­fits for the mil­lions of Amer­ic­ans who have lost their un­em­ploy­ment in­sur­ance since the pro­gram ex­pired on Dec. 28. “We need to get this ret­ro­act­ively done to help these fam­il­ies that need the money,” the Nevada Re­pub­lic­an said.

A hand­ful of House Re­pub­lic­ans have writ­ten to Boehner ask­ing for a vote on un­em­ploy­ment-in­sur­ance be­ne­fits, while a few oth­er Re­pub­lic­ans have floated the pos­sib­il­ity of at­tach­ing ap­prov­al of the Key­stone pipeline and oth­er job-cre­ation pro­pos­als to the bill in or­der to pass the Boehner test. But sev­er­al law­makers said that the is­sue has not been a top­ic of ser­i­ous dis­cus­sion with­in the House Re­pub­lic­an Con­fer­ence.

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