Push to Extend Unemployment Benefits Stalls

Friday, 30 May 2014 02:37 PM

By John A. Oswald

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The push for extended benefits for the the nation's nearly 3 million long-term unemployed stalled after the program expired at Christmas and that's where things are likely to remain as a result of Washington gridlock, The Washington Times reports.

A bipartisan Senate bill passed in April would have tacked three months of benefits onto the standard 26 weeks most out-of-work Americans now get. The added benefits in the bill written by Sens. Jack Reed, D-R.I., and Dean Heller, R-Nev., were to expire May 31.

Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, has been steadfast in his position that the bill was a nonstarter in the House without a private sector job-creation component. A spokesman told the Times nothing has changed.

"I think this issue is dead for now," Chris Edwards, editor of the Cato Institute's DownsizingGovernment.org at the Cato Institute. "I would say sometimes in Washington gridlock is good. In my view, this is an example where gridlock is good because it has saved taxpayer money."

The push to restore extended benefits ran into another obstacle: The declining national unemployment rate made it seem less urgent, one analyst said.

"One of the reasons there’s been so little momentum has been the rather sharp drop in the unemployment rate over the last year. While the economy certainly isn't out of the woods, the unemployment situation has improved substantially," said the Heritage Foundation's James Sherk, a senior policy analyst in labor economics.

"For a lot of people, it doesn’t seem as pressing as when unemployment was at 10 percent," he told the Times.

The uphill battle the Senate bill that faced was apparent soon after the 59-38 vote.

Boehner spokesman Michael Steel said Democrats doomed the Reed-Heller bill because party leaders "ruled out adding any job measures at all."

Senate Democrats accused Boehner of holding the unemployed hostage to a conservative politcal agenda.

Republicans shot back that Americans need jobs, not more checks, and were furious The White House had put the Keystone XL pipeline project into limbo.

"The House needs to extend unemployment benefits to millions of Americans right now, without attaching extraneous issues that are merely an attempt to score political points," Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said after the passage in early April.

And neither side moved much from there.

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