It took four months of effort, but the Senate finally approved a bipartisan compromise last week on extended unemployment benefits. The bill’s prospects in the Republican-led House are, at least for now, non-existent – as Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) put it, “I don’t think there is a great sense of pressure on our members.”
Putting aside whether lawmakers should only act when “pressured” to do the right thing, the debate took an interesting twist yesterday when two governors – one from each party – began trying to compel the House to vote on the pending jobless aid.
The governors of the two states with the highest unemployment rates are urging Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio to take up the Senate’s unemployment extension bill.Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval, a Republican, and Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee, a Democrat, wrote to Boehner and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. D-Calif., asking that the House take up the Senate-passed bill.
In their letter, Sandoval and Chafee wrote, “As you know, long-term unemployment remains unacceptably high despite the fact that our economy has been recovering from the worst recession in generations. When our country has experienced similar rates of long-term unemployment in the past, Congress has consistently acted in a bipartisan fashion to extend emergency unemployment benefits.”
That true, Congress has consistently acted in a bipartisan fashion to extend emergency unemployment benefits, especially when the jobless rate is as high as it is now. But that was before the current crop of House GOP lawmakers took power.
In the larger context, House Republicans obviously find it easy to condemn Democratic ideas. But on jobless aid, House Republicans now want the public to believe everyone is wrong: several Republican senators, Republican voters, at least one Republican governor, the Congressional Budget Office, the White House, independent economists, etc.
Meanwhile, Reps. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.) and Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) this week published an offer in Roll Call for Democrats to consider.
We believe there is a better way to help those who are unemployed and struggling to pay the bills while addressing the underlying problem: the lack of job opportunities for many hardworking Americans.That is why we have introduced HR 3885, the GROWTH (Generating Real Opportunities for Workers and Transitional Help) Act. This legislation meets the need for continued emergency unemployment compensation while simultaneously promoting job creation and preserving current jobs and wages.
Here’s the deal: Democrats would get extended jobless aid (a policy that used to enjoy bipartisan backing). In exchange, Republicans would get the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, an anti-ACA provision, and the repeal the medical device tax.
Note, the anti-ACA provision Dent and Meadows want cause 1 million Americans to lose their employer-based health insurance coverage, while adding $74 billion to the deficit over the next decade. Repealing the medical device tax, meanwhile, would raise the deficit by $109 billion over the next decade. All of these figures come from the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office.
Dent and Meadows characterized their truly laughable proposal as “responsible.” I’m not sure they define the word the same way as everyone else.