A little more than a week into the new year, President Obama is dealing with old problems, namely difficulty rallying House Republicans to extend federal unemployment benefits.
GOP House members are reportedly wary of pouring more money into a program many see as laden with problems, including the price tag of more than $6.4 billion to extend benefits for an additional three months, The Washington Post reported Wednesday
Republicans also complain about flaws in the unemployment insurance program is administered and the lack of a long-term plan to stabilize the economy and create more jobs.
The federal law passed to help people put out of work during the recent recession by extending federal unemployment benefits by 26 weeks expired at the end of 2013, leaving at least 1.3 million unemployed Americans without a weekly benefit payment. Millions of others will hit the same 26-week wall this year and lose their benefits if Congress fails to renew the program.
Some GOP lawmakers say they will consider extending the program if it can be paid for. Some proposals included Ohio Sen. Rob Portman’s suggestion to prohibit people from collecting unemployment benefits while concurrently drawing federal disability payments for work-related injuries. That idea would save about $5.4 billion, nearly enough to cover the short-term extension of the program, according to the Post.
But conservative House Republicans aren’t as amenable to extending the emergency benefits, according to Politico, which reports that many in the GOP “think the current policy is garbage
” and only highlights the president’s failed economic policies.
“For Barack Obama to come back again and again and again to seek emergency unemployment is recognition that his policies have failed,” Colorado Republican Rep. Cory Gardner told Politico. “[We have] asked the president for a plan that would pay for [unemployment insurance] just like they’ve done many, many times, and the president hasn’t responded yet.”
Democrats object to offsetting the three-month extension with additional budget cuts. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, wants the benefit extension for a year, which would cost taxpayers $26 billion, the Post notes.
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