The 2014 unemployment extension passed by the Senate in early April, but which has since stalled in the face of Republican opposition in the House where speaker John Boehner refuses to even allow a vote on the extension, may get one last chance next week.
Nevada Senator Dean Heller, a Republican who broke with his party to co-sponsor of the 2014 unemployment extension bill, now says he plans to attach the extension as a rider to a bill that is near and dear to Republicans’ hearts — a massive, $85 billion package of corporate tax breaks expected to come to a Senate vote next week.
“We are taking a look at favorable pieces of legislation out there that we can attach something to,” Heller told the Washington publication Roll Call, confirming that he will attempt to hook the unemployment extension to the 2014 tax cut bill.
The tax cut package has support from both parties — it was passed by the Democratic-run Senate Finance Committee on April 4 — and extends for two years a wide range of corporate tax breaks, such as loopholes for Hollywood movie studios, rum importers and NASCAR track owners.
If Heller can attach the unemployment extension to the tax-break bill, which is a lock to pass the Senate, it would put House Republicans in the awkward position of voting against tax cuts for big business, an issue central to the Republican economic platform, simply to stop long term unemployed Americans from receiving badly-needed assistance.
The 2014 unemployment extension bill was co-sponsored by Heller and Democratic Rhode Island Senator Jack Reed. As of March 2014, Rhode Island had the highest unemployment rate in the nation at 8.7 percent.
Heller’s home state of Nevada was second-worst with 8.5 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Their bill would renew benefits for job seekers who have been unemployed for more than 26 weeks, and continue those benefits through the end of May. But the benefits would be paid retroactively to the end of last year, when they were suddenly cut off when congress failed even to take a vote authorizing an unemployment extension into 2014.
Last week Heller personally called Boehner, urging him to allow a vote on the unemployment extension bill, but the House speaker rebuffed him.
The corporate tax cut bill is looked on as a “must pass” by both parties, so attaching the 2014 unemployment extension to the $85 million package may be the last hope for bringing some kind of support to the nearly 3 million unemployed Americans who abruptly lost their benefits at the end of last year.