Senate Republicans Flip the Script on Unemployment

WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 07: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) speaks to reporters after attending the weekly Democrat policy luncheon at the U.S. Capitol on January 7, 2014 in Washington, DC. Senate Democrats gathered at a luncheon to discuss various issues inlcluding minimum wage and unemployment insurance.
National Journal
Elahe Izad and Michael Catalini
Add to Briefcase
Elahe Izad Michael Catalini
Jan. 7, 2014, 4:17 p.m.

Sen­ate Re­pub­lic­ans, tired of play­ing by the Demo­crat­ic script, are plan­ning to flip the story line on their op­pon­ents — and they want to use the bill ex­tend­ing un­em­ploy­ment in­sur­ance to do it.

Angry after Ma­jor­ity Lead­er Harry Re­id changed Sen­ate rules last year to lim­it their pro­ced­ur­al weapons, Re­pub­lic­ans are tak­ing a new ap­proach. On Tues­day, six GOP sen­at­ors voted with the Demo­crat­ic caucus to pro­ceed to de­bate on the bill, which would ex­tend un­em­ploy­ment be­ne­fits to the long-term job­less for three months.

The move was a genu­ine sur­prise. And it floored Demo­crats.

“I guess be­ing Ir­ish, I’m al­ways ex­pect­ing the worst,” said Sen. Jack Reed, the Rhode Is­land Demo­crat who sponsored the meas­ure along with Re­pub­lic­an Sen. Dean Heller of Nevada. “So yeah, I was sur­prised. But that might be more cul­tur­al than polit­ic­al.”

Demo­crats ex­pec­ted Re­pub­lic­ans to block the bill, ful­filling what aides have called Re­id’s “fa­vor­ite nar­rat­ive” about the GOP: that they’re ob­struc­tion­ists.

In­stead, Re­pub­lic­ans have thrown the is­sue back to Re­id, who must now fa­cil­it­ate a com­prom­ise pro­cess — in­clud­ing Re­pub­lic­an amend­ments — if the bill is to win ap­prov­al.

Just be­cause six Re­pub­lic­ans joined Demo­crats to let the bill pro­ceed on Tues­day doesn’t mean the ex­ten­sion is headed for pas­sage later this week. In fact, a num­ber of those Re­pub­lic­ans have said they won’t sup­port it un­less the meas­ure is paid for. GOP law­makers could force a second clo­ture vote and send the bill down — un­less Re­id gives them a reas­on not to.

“In a sense it’s call­ing his bluff,” said Sen. Dan Coats, the In­di­ana Re­pub­lic­an who was among those who voted for clo­ture, to the sur­prise of many.

“This was a vote to move to de­bate, move to amend­ment,” he said. “If Harry Re­id wants to shut that down, start the New Year just like he ended the old year, then that’s his choice.”

The three-month ex­ten­sion was the Demo­crats’ open­ing bid, with Re­pub­lic­ans, in­clud­ing House Speak­er John Boehner, say­ing they would sup­port an ex­ten­sion only if it con­tained an off­set. Demo­crats have long balked at pay­ing for the fed­er­al pro­gram, ar­guing that it is an emer­gency meas­ure that hasn’t been paid for throughout much of its ex­ist­ence. They also ar­gue it puts money dir­ectly in­to the eco­nomy.

“Cer­tainly for this three months, this def­in­itely should not be paid for,” Re­id said. “If they can come up with some — they, mean­ing the Re­pub­lic­ans — something that’s reas­on­able for a year­long ex­ten­sion, we’ll take a look at it.”

In­deed, the con­ver­sa­tion about an off­set has be­gun, des­pite Demo­crat­ic op­pos­i­tion.

Re­id ruled out Minor­ity Lead­er Mitch Mc­Con­nell’s open­ing of­fer, which paid for the ex­ten­sion by delay­ing the Af­ford­able Care Act’s in­di­vidu­al man­date for one year. Mc­Con­nell sought to get a vote on his amend­ment Tues­day, but Re­id blocked it.

Now Sen­ate Re­pub­lic­ans are pro­pos­ing a bevy of off­sets and amend­ments — and call­ing on Re­id to let them have a vote. GOP pro­pos­als are all over the place. One from Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., who voted for clo­ture, would pay for the be­ne­fits and roll back cuts to mil­it­ary pen­sions in the budget deal by re­quir­ing So­cial Se­cur­ity num­bers for any chil­dren claimed for ad­di­tion­al child tax cred­its.

Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, the No. 3 Sen­ate Re­pub­lic­an, offered an amend­ment that in­cludes a pro­vi­sion to ex­empt the long-term un­em­ployed from Obama­care’s in­di­vidu­al man­date. Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ar­iz., wants to tight­en re­stric­tions on people eli­gible for both un­em­ploy­ment and dis­ab­il­ity in­sur­ance.

Re­id has signaled he may be open to al­low­ing amend­ments, say­ing “we’ll take a look if they have something that’s ser­i­ous.”

But it is un­clear what “something that’s ser­i­ous” may be. The open­ing lines from either side — an Obama­care-man­date delay from Re­pub­lic­ans and clos­ing tax loop­holes from Demo­crats — are non­starters. “Right now, every­one should un­der­stand, the low-hanging fruit is gone. We’ve scav­enged every place we could go,” Re­id said.

Still, the de­bate is front and cen­ter. Pres­id­ent Obama spoke in the East Room on Tues­day, call­ing on law­makers to pass the Sen­ate bill. And he has phoned law­makers on the Hill, such as Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, who spoke with him about off­sets and the need for a job-train­ing com­pon­ent.

Collins, who voted for clo­ture, may with­hold sup­port for fi­nal pas­sage sans an off­set, she said. “It’s un­der­stand­ably dis­turb­ing to many mem­bers of our caucus to vi­ol­ate the budget we just passed, so I think we need a con­cer­ted ef­fort to find an off­set, and that is un­der­way,” she said. “I’ve had con­ver­sa­tions with a couple of Demo­crats about the de­sirab­il­ity of a pay-for.”

The Reed-Heller ex­ten­sion would ap­ply ret­ro­act­ively to the 1.3 mil­lion who lost be­ne­fits Dec. 28. People qual­i­fy for the be­ne­fits once they ex­haust state-based aid, which runs 26 weeks in most places. A year­long ex­ten­sion would cost $25 bil­lion over 10 years, ac­cord­ing to the Con­gres­sion­al Budget Of­fice, and des­pite the ef­forts of Demo­crats, didn’t make it in­to the fi­nal budget deal. A three-month ex­ten­sion would cost about $6.5 bil­lion.

“Cer­tainly we have to be very care­ful with what we do,” said Sen­ate Budget Com­mit­tee Chair­wo­man Patty Mur­ray, D-Wash. “We don’t want to take out of one hand and put it in the oth­er.”

What We're Following See More »
SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE UNANIMOUSLY APPROVES
Christopher Wray Approved as New FBI Director
56 minutes ago
THE LATEST
ALPHABAY SOLD DRUG, OTHER ILLICIT GOODS
DOJ Announces Dark Web Marketplace Take Down
59 minutes ago
THE LATEST

"The Justice Department on Thursday announced it had shuttered an illicit Internet marketplace for drugs, firearms and fake documents in what Attorney General Jeff Sessions said was the 'largest dark Web takedown in world history. Known as AlphaBay, the marketplace on the dark Web was where users whose identities were masked could engage in substantial buying and selling of illicit goods."

Source:
Mueller Expands Probe to Trump Business Transactions
2 hours ago
THE DETAILS

Special Counsel Robert Mueller's team is "is examining a broad range of transactions involving Trump’s businesses as well as those of his associates", including "Russian purchases of apartments in Trump buildings, Trump’s involvement in a controversial SoHo development with Russian associates, the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow and Trump’s sale of a Florida mansion to a Russian oligarch in 2008."

Source:
HE WAS 92
Former Rep. Ralph Regula (R-OH) Dies
2 hours ago
THE DETAILS

"A native of Beach City, Regula served in the U.S. Navy. He was a private-practice lawyer, teacher and school principal who served on the Ohio Board of Education and in the Ohio House and state Senate before he won election to Congress for the first time in 1972 — the first of 18 straight victories before deciding not to seek re-election in 2008."

Source:
TO ESTABLISH PRESIDENTIAL ADVISORY COUNCIL ON INFRASTRUCTURE
Trump Issues Executive Order
2 hours ago
THE DETAILS

President Trump issued an executive order to establish a presidential advisory council on infrastructure to advance projects and help the American people. The council will be composed of 15 members and their mission is to study infrastructure projects and make recommendations to the president. It will terminate December 31, 2018, unless the president extends it.

×
×

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