GOP's Heller Pushes Bill to Extend Jobless Benefits

Image: GOP's Heller Pushes Bill to Extend Jobless Benefits

Friday, 27 Dec 2013 08:28 AM

By Drew MacKenzie

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Nevada Sen. Dean Heller has raised eyebrows among his Republican colleagues by putting his name to a bill to extend unemployment benefits to 1.3 million jobless Americans.

Co-sponsored by Democratic Sen. Jack Reed of Rhode Island, the legislation fails to offset the costs of the welfare with any proposed cuts to the federal budget — so breaking GOP pledges to keep entitlements and government spending down.

Editor's Note: ObamaCare Is Here. Are You Prepared?

The legislation, which could be introduced in the Senate in early January, has been hailed by President Barack Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, but is likely to upset many Republicans, especially conservatives, says Rhode Island's Providence Journal.

Republicans have argued that they will vote against extending benefits unless other cuts are put forward to counter the cost of the unemployment benefits.

The object of the emergency bill is to give the government time to come up with a comprehensive plan to make changes to the program and find ways to pay for it.

The benefits available to workers unemployed for 26 weeks or more are set to expire on Saturday.

Democrats had hoped to include a one-year extension to the benefits, at a cost of $25 billion, to the two-year federal budget, which was negotiated by the Senate and House finance committee chairs, Democratic Sen. Patty Murray of Washington and Republican Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin.

But the extension was omitted from the legislation, which was signed into law Thursday by President Barack Obama during his Christmas vacation in Hawaii.

Heller and Reed have a particular interest in the unemployment problem because their two states have the highest jobless rates in the country. Extensions to unemployment benefits are given to jobless workers in states with the worst unemployment rates, with Nevadans eligible for the maximum 73 weeks, says the Las Vegas Sun.

On Reed's official website, Heller said, "Providing a safety net for those in need is one of the most important functions of the federal government. As Nevada’s unemployment rate continues to top the charts nationwide, many families and individuals back home do not know how they are going to meet their basic needs.

"I am pleased to join Senator Reed on this legislation, which aims to help people across the nation who have fallen on hard times."

Reed said he had introduced the "emergency spending" measure so that the unemployed aren’t "cut off, thrown off the cliff starting literally this week.” He suggested that a year-long extension of jobless benefits could be paid for by closing tax loopholes and reducing offshore tax breaks.

The legislation has already received the support of leading Democrats. Senate Majority Leader Reid said he was "pleased and proud of my colleague Sen. Dean Heller" for introducing "a good bill, and it deserves a vote."

And White House Senior Adviser Valerie Jarrett has declared that Obama's administration "strongly support" the bill, adding, "We think it’s very important; we think they’ve made a very good case for it." She also said the president would help "galvanize support for it."

Editor's Note: ObamaCare Is Here. Are You Prepared?

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