The 2014 unemployment extension measure passed by the Senate on April 7 would likely never have made it past a Republican filibuster attempt without the support of Ohio’s junior Senator, 58-year-old Rob Portman. It was Portman who helped craft the compromise bill that would have paid unemployment benefits retroactively through December, and granted an extension through the end of May 2014. And it was Portman who broke with the majority of his own Republican party to provide a critical, filibuster-breaking vote.
But the bill stalled and has now apparently died in the House because Republican House Speaker John Boehner never allowed the measure to come to a vote in that legislative body. The stonewalling strategy protects his fellow GOP reps from being forced to take a public stand that could appear heartless or unsympathetic to the plight of the long-term unemployed — though they oppose the unemployment extension.
Republicans Sensitive To Appearance Of Indifference
In fact, Boehner has been so sensitive to the problem of appearing indifferent toward those who have been out of work for more than six months — the constituency who would benefit from the 2014 unemployment extension — that House Republicans were coached earlier this year on how to speak publicly about unemployed workers. Reportedly, GOP reps were instructed to refer to unemployment as a “personal crisis” for families, a phrasing which allows them to appear sympathetic, while also conveying the message that the solutions to the “crisis” are also “personal,” not political.
But Rob Portman was also sympathetic to Boehner, refusing to contact the House speaker or pressure him in any way about bringing the Senate unemployment extension to a House vote before the end of May 2014, when the bill expires.
“He’s hearing it from all sides within his own conference, which he has to keep together,” Portman said, explaining why he hasn’t contacted Boehner to discuss the unemployment extension. “That’s got to be his priority.”
While Boehner may have some leverage with Boehner as both a fellow Republican and a fellow Ohioan, he is not alone when it comes to the kid gloves approach with Boehner over the unemployment extension.
Obama Not Pressing On 2014 Unemployment Extension, Either
While President Barack Obama attempted to rally his own supporters to lobby congress over the unemployment extension, he also never called Boehner about it.
Nevada Republican Senator Dean Heller, a co-author of the Senate’s 2014 unemployment extension, did speak to Boehner but was rebuffed.
For the Senate’s unemployment extension to take effect in 2014, the House would have to vote on it and approve it by the end of this week, but the bill is not on the House docket at all, so it appears that the bill will simply die.