Reid to Republicans: You Want an Offset? Here’s Your Offset.

Reid: Boehner's is not the only plan.
National Journal
Michael Catalin
Add to Briefcase
Michael Catalin
Jan. 12, 2014, 7:35 a.m.

Sen­ate Ma­jor­ity Lead­er Harry Re­id is plan­ning to give Sen­ate Re­pub­lic­ans what they’ve been ask­ing for — a paid-for ex­ten­sion of un­em­ploy­ment be­ne­fits.

Only, Re­pub­lic­ans are not too thrilled at the pro­spect.

With arms fol­ded and scowls on their faces, Sen­ate Re­pub­lic­ans watched Re­id shoot down their re­quests for amend­ments on the three-month, $6.4 bil­lion le­gis­la­tion au­thored by Sens. Dean Heller, R-Nev., and Jack Reed, D-R.I. It’s true, Re­pub­lic­ans say, they wanted off­sets, but just as im­port­ant was the chance to vote on their amend­ments.

“Their good faith is be­ing re­war­ded with a kick in the teeth,” Minor­ity Whip John Cornyn of Texas said of his col­leagues.

Not only have their amend­ments so far not been sched­uled for a vote, but Re­id is plan­ning a roll call on a Demo­crat­ic amend­ment. It’s a year­long ex­ten­sion of the be­ne­fits — which was al­ways what Re­id had sought — paired with an off­set that ex­tends se­quest­ra­tion for a year and in­cor­por­ates part of a pro­pos­al from Re­pub­lic­an Sen. Rob Port­man of Ohio that cuts off Amer­ic­ans who get un­em­ploy­ment and dis­ab­il­ity be­ne­fits.

The off­set was meant to en­tice Re­pub­lic­ans and served as the back­bone of a deal that dis­in­teg­rated last week as Re­pub­lic­ans balked at the pay-for. Push­ing sav­ings 10 years in­to the fu­ture doesn’t pass muster, Cornyn and oth­ers said.

So, if Re­pub­lic­ans vote to block the meas­ure, which they were in­clined to do, Re­id could de­nounce them for de­feat­ing le­gis­la­tion they sug­ges­ted they would sup­port.

Re­id told Minor­ity Lead­er Mitch Mc­Con­nell last week, with Re­pub­lic­an law­makers watch­ing, that he did not in­tend to al­low any of their amend­ments. That po­s­i­tion, though, seems to be soften­ing. By the week­end, Re­id signaled he would con­sider his col­leagues’ amend­ments as long as they are ger­mane and do not touch the Af­ford­able Care Act.

The whip­lash-in­du­cing de­bate, mired by par­tis­an pro­ced­ur­al feud­ing, is headed for its res­ol­u­tion this week, with the pro­spects for a bill to clear the Sen­ate, let alone the House, look­ing as bleak as ever.

Demo­crats em­phas­ize the stakes: 1.4 mil­lion Amer­ic­ans without long-term un­em­ploy­ment be­ne­fits, 72,000 more ad­ded each week. Re­pub­lic­ans, mean­while, urge re­form of the sys­tem that would add job-train­ing pro­grams while also re­du­cing the debt and de­fi­cit.

This de­bate is play­ing out against the back­drop of a gov­ern­ment spend­ing bill, which top ap­pro­pri­at­ors are ex­pec­ted to un­veil later this week, in­clud­ing a short-term con­tinu­ing res­ol­u­tion to keep op­er­a­tions run­ning while law­makers com­plete their work. Seni­or Demo­crats shot down the pos­sib­il­ity that the un­em­ploy­ment in­sur­ance ex­ten­sion, which has been in­cluded as part of lar­ger bills re­cently, could find its way in­to the om­ni­bus.

Sen­ate Budget Com­mit­tee Chair­wo­man Patty Mur­ray tried to in­clude the meas­ure in Decem­ber’s budget deal, but House Re­pub­lic­ans shot the idea down. Wheth­er Demo­crats would try again to in­clude it in the om­ni­bus spend­ing bill, though, looks un­likely.

“There’s a lot of things that could have been put in the budget agree­ment if there had been agree­ments,” Mur­ray said. “This is not one of them.”

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