Unemployment Insurance Passes Senate, House Vote Still Unlikely

Six Republicans voted with Democrats in the Senate, as Boehner stands strong in his opposition.

Senators Jack Reed (D-RI) and Dean Heller (R-NV) stand in front of a screen showing an increasing number count to represent the number of Americans losing their unemployment insurance, on April 3, 2014 in Washington, DC.
National Journal
Sarah Mimms
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Sarah Mimms
April 7, 2014, 2:26 p.m.

A five-month ex­ten­sion of un­em­ploy­ment-in­sur­ance be­ne­fits cleared the Sen­ate on Monday on a 59-38 vote, with the same six Re­pub­lic­ans sup­port­ing the bill who voted in fa­vor of clo­ture last week.

The Re­pub­lic­ans are Kelly Ayotte of New Hamp­shire, Susan Collins of Maine, Dean Heller of Nevada, Mark Kirk of Illinois, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, and Rob Port­man of Ohio.

Sup­port­ers of the un­em­ploy­ment-in­sur­ance ex­ten­sion in the Sen­ate had hoped more Re­pub­lic­ans would back the bill to put ad­di­tion­al pres­sure on House Speak­er John Boehner to bring up the le­gis­la­tion. Heller even spec­u­lated last week that more than six Re­pub­lic­ans would vote for fi­nal pas­sage Monday, but those votes nev­er ma­ter­i­al­ized.

The le­gis­la­tion is ret­ro­act­ive, mean­ing that in­di­vidu­als who had been un­em­ployed for at least six months and lost their be­ne­fits on Dec. 28 would re­ceive a lump-sum check for the checks they’ve missed when and if (and that’s a sig­ni­fic­ant if) the bill passes the House. Be­ne­fits would ex­pire for all in­di­vidu­als on May 31.

The bill now heads to the House, where pas­sage is far from as­sured. Boehner has re­peatedly lam­basted the Sen­ate bill as “un­work­able” and has noted that it does not in­clude any spe­cif­ic job-cre­ation pro­pos­als. “As the speak­er said months ago, we are will­ing to look at ex­tend­ing emer­gency un­em­ploy­ment in­sur­ance as long as it in­cludes pro­vi­sions to help cre­ate more private-sec­tor jobs — but, last week, Sen­ate Demo­crat­ic lead­ers ruled out adding any jobs meas­ures at all,” Boehner spokes­man Mi­chael Steel said Monday. “The Amer­ic­an people are still ask­ing, ‘Where are the jobs?’ and House Re­pub­lic­ans are fo­cused on our jobs agenda for fam­il­ies and small busi­nesses.”

Still, sev­en House Re­pub­lic­ans signed a let­ter to Boehner en­cour­aging him to take up the un­em­ploy­ment-in­sur­ance ex­ten­sion last week. They are Reps. Peter King, Chris Gib­son, and Mi­chael Grimm, all of New York; Frank Lo­Bi­ondo, Jon Run­yan, and Chris­toph­er Smith, all of New Jer­sey; and Joe Heck of Nevada.

Heller said last week that his staff is work­ing to set up a meet­ing between the sen­at­or and Boehner some time this week, adding that he is hope­ful that the sup­port of some House Re­pub­lic­ans, par­tic­u­larly in the Nevada del­eg­a­tion, will push the speak­er to bring the bill up for a vote.

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