Senate approves extension in jobless aid, but House forecast is cloudy

Measure would help 2.8 million people nationwide who have lost jobs and exhausted their state benefits.
TNS Regional News
Apr 7, 2014

 

The Senate on Monday agreed to extend the federal unemployment insurance program to about 2.8 million people nationwide who have lost jobs and exhausted their state benefits, but haven’t found new work.

The bill passed 59-38, but its future remains uncertain. The Republican-controlled House of Representatives has criticized the bill, and party leaders have not indicated whether they will allow a vote.

“Today, the Senate came together to pass a bipartisan bill that would extend unemployment insurance for millions of Americans and thousands of Ohio workers,” said Sen Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio). “This legislation would improve our economy and ensure that Ohioans who work hard and take responsibility will have the resources they need to take care of their families while looking for a new job. Now it is up to (House) Speaker (John) Boehner to do the right thing for these families — and our economy — by voting to extend emergency unemployment insurance.”

Democrats see the jobless benefits issue as a help in the midterm elections, particularly in the Senate, where control of the chamber could hang in the balance. The more Republicans resist, the more Democrats intend to portray them as insensitive to the needs of unemployed Americans who have not benefited from the end of the recession.

Republicans often counter that as long as people can collect benefits, they’ll rely on government money and not have incentive to look for work. And, Republicans often argue, the best way to ease unemployment is to provide other incentives for job creation.

Michael Steel, a spokesman for Boehner, said Monday that the House speaker for months has said House Republicans would consider extending emergency unemployment insurance if it included provisions that would create more private-sector jobs.

“I have always said that I’m a supporter of a strong social safety net,” said Rep. George Holding, R-N.C. “Any plan to extend long term unemployment benefits needs to be fiscally responsible and address the core issue: the lack of private-sector job creation.”

The Senate bill makes the extension fully paid for with a combination of offsets, including “pension smoothing,” an accounting maneuver that allows companies to pay less into their pension funds temporarily, which raises their taxable income.

“We have bent over backwards to pass a strong bipartisan unemployment insurance bill that incorporates Republican ideas,” said Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., chairman of the Senate Democratic Policy Committee. “If our bill was put up for a vote in the House, there is no question it would pass. Contrary to right-wing talking points, many of the people who would benefit this bill are out of work through no fault of their own and have been knocking on doors and going online looking for a job for months or even years.”

There is some sentiment to make the five-month extension start now and continue through early next fall, instead of being retroactive. Last Friday, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., would not rule that out when asked about it on the House floor by Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md.

Doing so would resolve one issue Republicans often mention: They have maintained retroactivity would be an administrative nightmare. It also would push any talk of another extension into the general election season.

Both parties regard the issue as important for firing up their bases, which can be important in midterm elections where turnout can be crucial.

An extension “doesn’t create any jobs,” Cantor said. “We want to provide a better environment for businesses to hire folks. We want to help those folks who are chronically unemployed access the skills necessary to fill the job openings today.”

Everyone wants to get people back to work, countered Rep. Sander Levin, D-Mich., top Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee. But sometimes people need help, he said.

If the benefits extension becomes law, the measure would make long-term unemployed people in North Carolina eligible once again for the federal program. The state lost eligibility when the Republican-led legislature cut state benefits last summer. About 170,000 North Carolinians lost their federal jobless benefits in the second half of last year as a result.

Under federal law, states must maintain their benefit amounts to qualify for the federal benefits.

North Carolina Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan, who faces a challenging re-election this year, got a waiver added to the bill that would restore the state to the program even though the state benefits were reduced.

“North Carolina is one step closer to regaining eligibility for federal unemployment benefits that would help families who continue to struggle to pay the bills and put food on the table,” Hagan said after voting for the measure. “Now that the Senate has approved bipartisan legislation that includes my provision to right the wrong created by the General Assembly, I call on the House to take action and provide these North Carolinians with access to a crucial lifeline as they continue to seek work.”

Still, North Carolina would face another hurdle even if the extension bill becomes law. Republican Gov. Pat McCrory would have to decide whether to extend the federal benefits of about $300 per week for unemployed workers who exhausted their state benefits. His spokesman, Ryan Tronovitch, said Monday that McCrory would have nothing to say unless the measure also passed the House.

Under the bill, anyone in North Carolina who was eligible for federal benefits in July when the state dropped out of the program, and still didn’t have a job would be eligible to receive the benefits again.

Hagan’s campaign blamed her leading Republican rival, state House Speaker Thom Tillis, for guiding through the bill that reduced state benefits and made North Carolina the only state not eligible for the federal benefits.

Tillis earlier complained that Hagan was out to score political points by waiting until December to propose a waiver. Hagan has responded by saying that it was not possible to push for a waiver until after the state legislature passed its own unemployment law. Senate Democrats proposed the legislation shortly after the latest federal unemployment insurance program expired on Dec. 28. The bill calls for making benefits retroactive.

“Thom Tillis should take responsibility for the mess he made in Raleigh last year, but instead he continues to play political games with long-term unemployed North Carolinians working hard to get back on their feet,” said Sadie Weiner, Hagan’s campaign spokeswoman. “While Kay put North Carolina first to include a fix for our state that will help middle-class families make ends meet, Tillis spent the last year using the unemployed as a political football just to oppose the same fix he claimed to want.”

Tillis spokesman Jordan Shaw could not be reached for comment.

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By Renee Schoof and David Lightman - McClatchy Washington Bureau (MCT)

©2014 McClatchy Washington Bureau

Visit the McClatchy Washington Bureau at www.mcclatchydc.com

Distributed by MCT Information Services

Comments

truckin

Did anyone read Brown's comment???
bill is for Ohioans who work hard and take responsibility????
extending benefits equals working hard and taking responsibility??
What world am i living in?

former local

Anyone who has been on unemployment knows you can't live off that money!! It's a Republican excuse, hopefully it will come back to bite them in the keester in the mid-term elections!!

Dr. Information

So how long should unemployment be extended for. 10 years- 20 years?

truckin

It NEVER was meant to live off of.
It gave you time to keep food on the table while you looked or sold all your disposable toys (boats, bikes, kids xbox) collect the cash from selling crap you don't need and move to where there are JOBS.
Regroup and buy the toys again..
What is sooooo hard with that??

So many people are afraid to take one step back to down the road get 2 forward.
Society of gotta have it NOW...

In my opinon

I think you would be more upset with the Senate finance committee and the hearings they held today on wether or not the American people were getting their tax done by qualified people who were making sure (and they specifically said waitresses and mechanics) were paying all the taxes they owed. All I could think of is why don't they go after the corporations, that because of screwed up tax laws have over 2.1 TRILLION dollars untaxed profits in off shore accounts, and your worried about the small person who gets tops a measly 300 a week. Don't understand your way of thinking..

Contango

Comrade Sen. Brown:

"Ohioans who work hard and take responsibility will have the resources they need to take care of their families while looking for a new job."

4-5 yrs. of unemployment benefits and some still can't find a job?

Old govt. saw: Tax what you don't want, subsidize what you do.

BTW: States have to pay the money back; it ain't free.

rbenn

There are many jobs available you just have to look here is a sample of what I found in just a click of a mouse. http://www.indeed.com/jobs?q=&l=...

pntbutterandjelly

Whether you are for extending the benefits or not....John Boehner is nothing more than an obstructionist. He needs to be removed from public office.

rbenn

The single biggest obstructionist is Harry Reid!, Don't get me wrong Boehner is an idiot, Harry Reid has been over the top when it comes to any bills going through.

In my opinon

Get real, Boner won't bring ANYTHING to the floor for anyone to even vote on!

rbenn

And Reid does? lol ok

Contango

Re: "John Boehner"

A moderate. Be 'careful' what you wish for regarding the next Speaker.

In my opinon

@pntbutterandjelly... AMEN to that! If he would get off his high horse and pass some of the job bills out there the unemployment wouldn't have to be extended..And yes I know people that have non stopped looked for jobs that could support their families and they are just not there.

propman

The House has passed many bills for job creation and other things this country needs yet the media never covers them and Harry Reid blocks them from the senate so the Dems will not go on record for voting for or against the bills.
The obstructionism is in the senate and the white house.

truckin

EVERYONE
STOP BLAMING GOVERNMENT or your HOME area..
SELL THINGS
MOVE
REGROUP
BUY THINGS AGAIN..
WE have 48 reachable states and alot with JOBs a plenty..