White House Won't Insist on Jobless Aid in Budget Deal

Friday, 06 Dec 2013 06:58 PM

By Sandy Fitzgerald

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The White House won't make an extension of the unemployment benefits program set to expire at the end of the year a mandatory clause of the emerging budget deal.

"[It would be] terrible to tell more than a million families across the country just a few days after Christmas that they're out of benefits," Press Secretary Jay Carney said Friday.

However, the White House doesn't care how the extension happens, as "the vehicle that they use to do that is less important than the fact that they do it," said Carney.

According to Democrats, 1.3 million workers will lose their federal unemployment benefits, which kick in after state benefits are all used, and after Dec. 28 without an extension, The Hill reports.

But Republicans pointed out that 204,000 jobs were added last month, and unemployment dropped to 7 percent — its lowest percentage since November 2008.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., also said Thursday that the extension does not need to be part of a budget deal, a change from statements she made during a Democratic panel on unemployment insurance. At that time, she claimed her party could not support a budget without the extensions as part of it.

However, Patty Murray, the Senate Democrat's top budget negotiator, is reportedly pushing House Budget Committee leader Paul Ryan, R-Wis., to include an extension of the benefits in the budget deal, reports Politico.

Democrats argued Friday that including the extension could help win their support for a budget deal, but Ryan fears the push will prompt Republicans to reject the overall budget proposal. The extension could create 200,000 jobs, but cost up to $25 billion.

"This literally came out of nowhere yesterday, and it is totally disingenuous of them to put this in play at this point," one Republican familiar with the talks told Politico. "They know the impact this will have on our side of the aisle, so I can only read this as a deliberate attempt to blow up any deal."

While Democrats like Pelosi are saying the issue won't jeopardize the budget deal, there are other items facing Ryan and Murphy, including a disagreement over cuts Ryan is pushing on to federal workers' retirement programs.

But both sides Friday said they're sure they can come up with a smaller budget plan, and plan to work through the weekend in hopes of displaying a proposal before the House adjourns for the year on Dec. 13.

Even if the House reaches a deal, it will likely be in the form of legislation rather than a non-binding budget resolution. This will mean opponents in the Senate can mount a filibuster against it, which means the bill would need bipartisan support and votes from 60 senators to pass. However, legislation gives Ryan and Murray more room to enact policy changes.

Ryan has proposed $120 billion in federal worker benefit cuts over a decade, by asking federal workers to pay more on their pensions. Meanwhile, President Barack Obama wants a level of around $20 billion, reports Politico.

Related stories:

White House Wants to Extend Extra Jobless Benefits through 2014
Unemployment Falls to 7 Percent as 203,000 Jobs Added


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