The Senate's narrowly approved extension of unemployment benefits for the long-term jobless "would be very difficult to pass in the House," Rep. Marsha Blackburn told Newsmax on Tuesday.
"Conservatives are not in favor of passing it, certainly not without offsets," the Tennessee Republican said in an exclusive interview. "We have to look at what size that offset would be."
Barely avoiding a filibuster by Republicans, the Democrat-controlled Senate voted 60-37 to restore for three months the emergency jobless benefits that expired on Dec. 28 for 1.3 million Americans.
The measure, which will cost $6.4 billion, was sent to the House, where delicate negotiations will soon begin.
Speaker John Boehner has said he is willing to negotiate with senators as long as Democrats cover the cost of the measure, which currently contains no funding provisions.
"Far too many Americans are still unemployed in President [Barack] Obama's economy," Boehner said after the vote. "For each of them, it's a personal crisis that we cannot overlook.
"Getting these people back on their feet starts with a strong safety net, six months of unemployment benefits, that we continue to have in this country," the Ohio Republican said. "But the ultimate solution to joblessness is more jobs.
"One month ago, I personally told the White House that another extension of temporary emergency unemployment benefits should not only be paid for but include something to help put people back to work," Boehner said. "To date, the president has offered no such plan.
"If he does, I'll be happy to discuss it, but right now the House is going to remain focused on growing the economy and giving America's unemployed the independence that only comes from finding a good job."
Republican Rep. Virginia Foxx of North Carolina told Newsmax that the Senate vote went beyond just a temporary extension of benefits.
"The Senate bill is about unemployment benefits that last significantly longer than that," she said. "These people need jobs, and Republicans will continue to focus on getting Americans back to work."
In her Newsmax interview, Blackburn reiterated that Boehner should find ways to pay for the benefits extension.
"We're borrowing 40 percent of everything we spend. When you're borrowing 40 cents of every dollar, you have to go in and start making some spending decisions if you're going to make an extension of a program."
She noted that the federal government has spent $520 billion on unemployment compensation and benefits over the past five years.
The Federal Emergency Unemployment Insurance Program, which ran out last month, had been operating for nearly six years, costing the government $265 billion, says the House Ways and Means Committee. Last month, 2.5 million Americans were receiving benefits through that program.
"The American people have spoken loud and clear: they are tired of the out-of-control spending in Washington," Blackburn told Newsmax. "They don't like $17 trillion debt. They want this spending to be brought under control.
"And while we all have great compassion for the long-term unemployed, what we also are very concerned about is what this long-term debt is doing to our nation's fiscal health, to our solvency, to our sovereignty — and you cannot separate these issues."
Blackburn noted that Obama lobbied Senate Democrats to pass the legislation.
"The phone calls the president ought to be making are to leaders in the House and the Senate and saying: 'All right, the Obama economy is not working. It hasn't been good for American workers. Let's sit down and talk about this.'
"He should be calling employers in the country — small, medium, and large — and saying, 'OK, give me a list of things we need to be doing. Tell me what is hurting you the most,'" Blackburn said.
"Those are the actions that he ought to take. People want to go back to work," she said. "We want people to be prosperous, to be at work, to be happy, to be fulfilled — and it means doing some things differently.
"Five years of this economy, it has gotten worse, not better."
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