Unemployment benefits, suddenly cut off at the end of December for 1.2 million long-term job-seekers — and for 74,000 every week since then — looked like they might finally be coming back, after a bipartisan group of senators struck a deal last week to bring the vital lifeline back to the more than 2 million job-seekers who need them, and to pump billions back into the still struggling United States economy.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said he expected the Senate to vote this week on the proposal, which would put benefits back into place retroactive to December 29, the date they ended after congress failed to act on passing an extension of the unemployment benefits and President Barack Obama did not push for a benefits extension to be part of the bipartisan budget deal he was moving through congress at the time.
But Republican House Speaker John Boehner Wednesday told the long-term unemployed not to raise whatever faint hope they may have that things will get better.
“We have always said that we’re willing to look at extending emergency unemployment benefits again, if Washington Democrats can come up with a plan that is fiscally-responsible, and gets to the root of the problem by helping to create more private-sector jobs,” Boehner said. “There is no evidence that the bill being rammed through the Senate by Leader Reid meets that test.”
In fact, the unemployment benefits bill that Boehner describes as being “rammed” through the Senate by Harry Reid is actually the product of Republicans and Democrats collaborating on a panel led by Rhode Island Democrat Jack Reed, and GOP Nevada Senator Dean Heller.
Other Republicans sponsoring the unemployment benefits bill include Susan Collins of Maine, Rob Portman of Boehner’s home state, Ohio, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Illinois GOP’er Mark Kirk.
In addition, the panel was careful to meet Republican demands that the unemployment benefits pay for themselves by making adjustments to other areas of the budget. The Senate proposal includes those provisions, but it does not affect such areas as Social Security, Medicare or the military.
The White House praised the proposed unemployment benefits bill.
“It’s the right thing to do for our economy,” the White House said in a statement. “The president urges the Senate to pass the bill and for the House to do the same so that he can sign it into law.”
But Boehner cited a letter from The National Association of State Workforce Agencies saying that the Senate plan might be difficult to put into effect.
“A better use of the Senate’s time would be taking up and passing the dozens of House-passed jobs bills still awaiting action,” Boehner said.
However, the phrase “dozens of jobs bills” has been used by Republicans before to mask the fact that under its current Republican leadership, the House has not passed any job creation bills. Instead, the House GOP has simply declared that any piece of legislation it passes, such as funding the controversial Keystone pipeline, or blocking new environmental regulations, “creates jobs.”
In January, the Republicans claimed that a bill barring federal subsidies for any health care plan that covered abortion services was a “jobs bill” because “having new children in the world,” in the words of House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, “very much promotes job creation.”
Polls have consistently shown strong support among the American public for extending unemployment benefits, the favorable number coming in at 69 percent in a recent Fox News survey.