The 2014 unemployment extension passed by the Senate in early April has two weeks to live, and with the House showing no signs of willingness to even vote on the unemployment bill, which includes an extension of benefits through the end of May, 2014, the measure appears as good as dead.
But even as hope for the 3.5 million people who have lost benefits since Congress suddenly cut them off on December 29 rapidly fades, President Barack Obama has yet to pick up the phone to call the one man most responsible for blocking the unemployment extension, Republican House Speaker John Boehner.
Boehner Spurns Negotiation Offer From Labor Secretary
Boehner has said that he is open to negotiating with the Obama administration on the 2014 unemployment extension — he says he wants to see the White House come up with a bill that includes private sector job creation.
Labor Secretary Thomas Perez sent an official letter to Boehner last week, offering exactly those negotiations, but Boehner ignored it and a top aide told the Capitol Hill publication Roll Call that the offer was “unserious.”
Whether a call to Boehner from the president himself would make any difference is uncertain, but so far Obama has yet to try. Instead, he has asked his supporters to make calls to their own representatives.
In fact, Obama has signed several economic measures since late 2013 and in in 2014, and he could have lobbied to attach the unemployment extension to any of them. But he has not done so, even signing a two-year budget deal that did not include an unemployment extension.
With Midterm Elections Nearing, Unemployment Extension Fades From View
“I’m worried,” said Maine Republican Senator Susan Collins, who was one of six Republicans to vote for the five month 2014 unemployment extesnion. “With each passing day, it’s going to become more difficult to reinstate the program. And in the meantime, we’re going to start seeing another wave of individuals who will lose their benefits.”
The bipartisan cooperation, however limited, that produced the unemployment extension bill passed in April, may no longer be possible as the 2014 midterm elections draw closer and congress members focus on playing to their base voters rather than on reaching across the aisle to pass legislation.
“I’m not quite sure what the Senate has energy for,” said Alaska Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski. “Honestly, on our side nobody’s talking about (the unemployment extension) right now.”
Nevada Republican Senator Dean Heller, who has been along with Rhode Island Democrat Jack Reed the most vocal advocate for the unemployment extension in either party, has not given up hope, however. On Thursday he met with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to discuss an entirely new piece of legislation to create an unemployment extension in 2014 when the current bill expires at the end of the month.
[Photo courtesy Mark Wilson/Getty Images via Washington Post]