Hope for an unemployment extension in 2014 appeared dead Friday, as the US House of Representatives left town for another recess without the unemployment benefits bill that passed the Senate on April 7 — and which would have extended benefits through the end of May — ever coming to a vote.
While it is theoretically possible that the House could vote on the 2014 unemployment extension bill when congress members go back to work on June 9, the bill at that point would pay only a lump sum of benefits retroactive to December 29, 2013, when congress did not bother to vote on the extension that needed approval at that time. The failure to vote then resulted in the sudden termination of the emergency unemployment extension provided for workers out of jobs for more than six months.
Republican House Speaker John Boehner has refused to bring the Senate unemployment extension bill to the House floor since it passed almost eight weeks ago. Chances that he will allow a vote on retroactive benefits appear to be virtually non-existent.
Failure Of 2014 Unemployment Extension Blamed On GOP, Not ‘Gridlock’
“It is easy to chalk up this failure to Congressional gridlock, but we should resist the urge to be so glib with the lives of those struggling just to get by, who lost their jobs through no fault of their own,” said Christine L. Owens, executive director of the National Employment Law Project, in response to the death of the 2014 unemployment extension. “It is House Republican leaders and not some indeterminate ‘gridlock’ who have chosen to run out the clock on the Senate’s unemployment extension.”
Owens went on to say that House Republicans, “have turned the familiar adage ‘do no harm’ into ‘do nothing but harm,'” and condemned the failure to vote on the unemployment extension as, “a failure of leadership, of policy and most of all, of basic morality.”
Obama ‘Hasn’t Given Up,’ But Has Taken No Action On Extension
President Barack Obama, despite the death of the Senate bill, “hasn’t given up” on an unemployment extension in 2014, his press secretary Jay Carney said Friday. But as the Capitol Hill publication Roll Call noted, Obama could threaten to veto other Republican-backed legislation until the unemployment extension is enacted, but he has not chosen to exercise that power. Nor has he even placed a phone call to Boehner to discuss the 2014 extension.
Unemployment Extension Not Expected To Be 2014 Campaign Issue
About 3.5 million Americans have been out of work for more than six months — about 35 percent of all those out of work — with thousands joining those ranks every week. The long-term unemployed have a much more difficult time finding new jobs. The call-back rate on job applications for those out of work for six-months or more is just four percent. Those unemployed for one month or less have a seven percent call-back rate.
The number of long-term unemployed is projected to hit 5 million by the time of midterm elections in November 2014.
But the unemployment extension is not expected to become an issue in the 2014 campaign, because the nation’s unemployment rate, while down from its peak at the height of the recession, remains high at 6.3 percent. Democrats worry that by discussing the unemployment extension in the campaign, they risk teeing up the high unemployment rate for Republicans to use to attack Democrats in the campaign.
Also, Democratic strategists believe that “the lines are already drawn” on the issue of a 2014 unemployment extension, meaning that the issue is unlikely to sway voters one way or the other at this point.