Republican Senators Firm in Flouting Boehner on Unemployment Aid

Wednesday, 26 Mar 2014 10:41 AM

By Sandy Fitzgerald

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House Speaker John Boehner is standing strong against restoring expired unemployment benefits and says the Republican-controlled House won't consider a Senate bill to extend a long-term aid extension. But the bill's Republican sponsor and four of his fellow GOP senators say they aren't backing down on the measure.

Nevada Republican Sen. Dean Heller on Monday voted against an aid bill for Ukraine in protest of favoring international affairs over domestic ones, Politico reports, and on Tuesday, Boehner criticized Heller's bill as one that won't help the economy or create jobs.

"I told the president I would consider this as long as it was paid for and as long as there were provisions attached that would actually help the economy and help people get back to work. Those conditions have not been met," Boehner said. "I don’t see how it’s workable."

Alaska Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who is one of five committed GOP supporters of the deal, said there are "a lot of things that the speaker doesn’t like that we do over here … what we have out there is a fair proposal."

The package could only pass with a thin margin in the Democrat-controlled Senate. The bill is expected to gather the votes of 55 Democrats and five Republicans — Heller, Murkowski, Rob Portman of Ohio, Susan Collins of Maine, and Mark Kirk of Illinois, reports.

The combination will be enough to put the legislation at the Senate's 60-vote threshold needed to pass it, meaning if just one of the five decide to agree with Boehner, the bill will fail.

But they are expected to pass it over to Boehner, which could expose him to Democratic attacks if the House does not take action on the bill.

Kirk said the bipartisan pact, reached earlier this month, is a "good compromise that takes care of people who are running out of their checks and does it in a way that is paid for appropriately."

The bill is designed to restart aid for long-term unemployed workers whose jobless benefits went beyond state limits, which are about 26 weeks with some variations among the states, The Washington Post reports.

Heller said he is troubled that the legislation may never come up in the House.

"I think it’s pretty palatable for their side," Heller said. "It is paid for. We had to limit the amount of time to five months. There are some good arguments to having this done."

But there may not be enough Republicans in the House who are vulnerable during this election cycle who are feeling pressure in their districts to pass the bill, Roll Call reports.

"It will encourage unemployment," said California Republican Rep. Devin Nunes. "We see the need to have unemployment [benefits], no question. But to extend this ... I just don’t see how we have the votes."

Other House Republicans would like to see an benefits extension bill passed, just not the Senate's version.

"The Senate’s move to do something may have wound up with something that’s not usable," said Republican Nevada Rep. Joe Heck. "We don’t want to pass something just for the sake of passing it if it’s not going to have any impact on those it’s meant to help."

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