Bipartisan Bill to Extend Jobless Aid Divides Republicans

WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 14: U.S. Sen. Dean Heller (R-NH) speaks to members of the media on unemployment insurance on January 14, 2014 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. The Senate has defeated two votes to renew the unemployment insurance benefits that was expired in December, 2013. (Photo by WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 14: U.S. Sen. Dean Heller (R-NH) speaks to members of the media on unemployment insurance on January 14, 2014 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. The Senate has defeated two votes to renew the unemployment insurance benefits that was expired in December, 2013. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images))
National Journal
Michael Catalini
Add to Briefcase
Michael Catalini
March 19, 2014, 1:04 p.m.

A bi­par­tis­an Sen­ate plan to ex­tend emer­gency un­em­ploy­ment-in­sur­ance be­ne­fits is driv­ing a wedge between Re­pub­lic­ans on both sides of the Cap­it­ol.

House Speak­er John Boehner and the Re­pub­lic­an ar­chi­tect of a Sen­ate bill to ex­tend be­ne­fits up to June are clash­ing over a let­ter from an in­terest group rep­res­ent­ing state work­force agen­cies that says the bill would cause delays in re­start­ing pay­ments to eli­gible be­ne­fi­ciar­ies.

“It is ex­tremely dis­ap­point­ing that, no mat­ter what solu­tion is reached, there is some ex­cuse to deny these much-needed be­ne­fits,” Re­pub­lic­an Sen. Dean Heller of Nevada said in a state­ment. “I look for­ward to passing this pro­pos­al out of the Sen­ate next week, and stand ready to help the speak­er, as well as any or­gan­iz­a­tion or any in­di­vidu­al ne­ces­sary, in or­der to make this ex­ten­sion a real­ity.”

At is­sue is le­gis­la­tion that Ma­jor­ity Lead­er Harry Re­id ex­pects the Sen­ate will pass when it re­turns from its re­cess next week. The nearly $10 bil­lion ex­ten­sion, which is ret­ro­act­ive to Dec. 28, is off­set by pay-fors brokered over a weeks-long ne­go­ti­ation.

The Na­tion­al As­so­ci­ation of State Work­force Agen­cies says im­ple­ment­ing the Sen­ate bill could take one to three months, which Boehner said renders the meas­ure “un­work­able.” The group also took is­sue with a key pro­vi­sion of the le­gis­la­tion that would end be­ne­fits for those with an ad­jus­ted gross in­come over $1 mil­lion. The sys­tem is not means-tested, and so it doesn’t col­lect in­form­a­tion on ad­jus­ted gross in­come, wrote Mark Henry, the group’s pres­id­ent.

Des­pite GOP sup­port in the Sen­ate, Boehner is us­ing the let­ter as a cudgel with which to whack Demo­crats.

“We have al­ways said that we’re will­ing to look at ex­tend­ing emer­gency un­em­ploy­ment be­ne­fits again, if Wash­ing­ton Demo­crats can come up with a plan that is fisc­ally re­spons­ible, and gets to the root of the prob­lem by help­ing to cre­ate more private-sec­tor jobs,” Boehner said in a state­ment. “There is no evid­ence that the bill be­ing rammed through the Sen­ate by Lead­er Re­id meets that test, and ac­cord­ing to these state dir­ect­ors, the bill is also simply un­work­able.”

Heller has been a key ne­go­ti­at­or on the Sen­ate bill, and at least four oth­er Re­pub­lic­ans, in­clud­ing Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Mark Kirk of Illinois, and Rob Port­man of Ohio, have signed onto the agree­ment as well.

Sen. Jack Reed of Rhode Is­land, the chief Demo­crat­ic au­thor of the deal, poin­ted out that Con­gress has passed emer­gency un­em­ploy­ment be­ne­fits be­fore and that im­ple­ment­a­tion should not be a prob­lem for the states.

“The real ques­tion is will Speak­er Boehner al­low an up or down vote on this bi­par­tis­an com­prom­ise?” Reed said in a state­ment.

Heller and Reed jointly re­leased a point-by-point take­down of the let­ter from the as­so­ci­ation of state agen­cies. Where the group ar­gues that some states’ com­puter sys­tems are too old to quickly handle changes, Heller and Reed called for Con­gress and the states to find a solu­tion, “in­stead of say­ing it can’t be done.”

For his part, Re­id views the prob­lems out­lined in the let­ter as solv­able, and he sug­gests that Boehner come to the table to work them out, ac­cord­ing to spokes­man Adam Jentleson. “It is hard to ima­gine Speak­er Boehner simply walk­ing away from the thou­sands of people in Ohio who lost their jobs through no fault of their own and need this life­line to make ends meet while they con­tin­ue to look for work,” Jentleson said.

House Demo­crats, mean­while, are high­light­ing the GOP split on the bill and pres­sur­ing Boehner to move the le­gis­la­tion.

“Those changes were ad­ded at the be­hest of Re­pub­lic­an sen­at­ors,” said House Budget Com­mit­tee rank­ing mem­ber Chris Van Hol­len of Mary­land.

The le­gis­la­tion is paid for through a num­ber of bi­par­tis­an meas­ures, in­clud­ing so-called “pen­sion smooth­ing” as well as an ex­ten­sion of cus­toms user fees.

Be­sides achiev­ing the policy goal of aid­ing the long-term un­em­ployed, at least through May, the meas­ure has elec­tion-year im­plic­a­tions as well. Demo­crat­ic out­side groups are point­ing to the bill as an ac­com­plish­ment as well as us­ing it to at­tack Re­pub­lic­ans, while some Re­pub­lic­ans are just philo­soph­ic­ally op­posed to ex­tend­ing such be­ne­fits.

For his part, Boehner seems to view the Sen­ate deal as a missed op­por­tun­ity to fo­cus on jobs. “Frankly, a bet­ter use of the Sen­ate’s time would be tak­ing up and passing the dozens of House-passed jobs bills still await­ing ac­tion,” he said.

Billy House contributed to this article.
What We're Following See More »
THE PLAN ALL ALONG?
Manchin Drops Objections, Clearing Way for Spending Deal
12 hours ago
THE LATEST

"The Senate standstill over a stopgap spending bill appeared headed toward a resolution on Friday night. Senators who were holding up the measure said votes are expected later in the evening. West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin had raised objections to the continuing resolution because it did not include a full year's extension of retired coal miners' health benefits," but Manchin "said he and other coal state Democrats agreed with Senate Democratic leaders during a caucus meeting Thursday that they would not block the continuing resolution, but rather use the shutdown threat as a way to highlight the health care and pension needs of the miners."

Source:
UNCLEAR WHAT CAUSED CHANGE OF HEART
Giuliani Out of Running For State
14 hours ago
BREAKING

Donald Trump transition team announced Friday afternoon that top supporter Rudy Giuliani has taken himself out of the running to be in Trump's cabinet, though CNN previously reported that it was Trump who informed the former New York City mayor that he would not be receiving a slot. While the field had seemingly been narrowed last week, it appears to be wide open once again, with ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson the current favorite.

Source:
ALSO VICE-CHAIR OF TRUMP’S TRANSITION TEAM
Trump Taps Rep. McMorris Rodgers for Interior Secretary
20 hours ago
BREAKING
SHUTDOWN LOOMING
House Approves Spending Bill
1 days ago
BREAKING

The House has completed it's business for 2016 by passing a spending bill which will keep the government funded through April 28. The final vote tally was 326-96. The bill's standing in the Senate is a bit tenuous at the moment, as a trio of Democratic Senators have pledged to block the bill unless coal miners get a permanent extension on retirement and health benefits. The government runs out of money on Friday night.

HEADS TO OBAMA
Senate Approves Defense Bill
1 days ago
THE LATEST

The Senate passed the National Defense Authorization Act today, sending the $618 billion measure to President Obama. The president vetoed the defense authorization bill a year ago, but both houses could override his disapproval this time around.

Source:
×
×

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.

Login