Dean Heller Goes Off GOP Script to Support Jobless Benefits

Monday, 31 Mar 2014 12:47 PM

By Aaron Stern

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Nevada Republican Sen. Dean Heller has irked conservative supporters with his staunch advocacy of extending unemployment benefits, a crusade that has also brought him in close contact with a former enemy – Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

Heller has doggedly pursued bringing back benefits for the unemployed since they ran out at the end of December because at 8.5 percent his home state has the third-highest rate of unemployment in the nation, according to Politico.

The Senate is poised to pass a bill this week that Heller jointly created with Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., that would create a five-month extension of jobless benefits, retroactive to December, according to Federal Information & News Dispatch.

"I believe there ought to be a safety net. And that safety net needs to be solid," Heller told Politico. "Not for a lifetime, but if someone hits tough times, I think there ought to be a safety net out there that the federal government has set up."

It's a stance that prompted Heller to defend his conservative credential on the Senate floor in January and represents a big departure from his take on the issue in 2010, when Heller wondered if unemployment benefits could end up "creating hobos," according to the Las Vegas Sun. 

Heller's leadership on the issue has helped bring along four other GOP senators to support the proposed bill.

House Speaker John Boehner has reportedly indicated the bill won't make it to a vote in the House if it passes the Senate, but that hasn't stopped Heller from pushing hard for it. Along the way, he's worked closely with fellow Nevadan Reid, who has opposed Heller in the past, a partnership that Heller also finds himself defending to constituents and supporters, according to Politico.

"I do get a lot of push back on that when I’m back in the state," Heller told Politico. "And there are those that feel I shouldn’t work with him. But I don’t think as small as Nevada is that it’s in the best interest of the state for the two senators to be at odds all the time."

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