Potential job seekers speak with employers at a job fair in New Yory City on November 20, 2013.
Andrew Gombert/EPA

The limits of presidential ‘involvement’

Updated
Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) deserves credit for being the only Senate Republican who’s consistently supported extended unemployment benefits. His position is very likely the result of the fact that Nevada has one of the highest unemployment rates in the nation, but regardless of the Republican senator’s motivation, Heller has been willing to do what his GOP brethren have not: work with Democrats on extending jobless aid.
 
But because Heller has a limited number of allies in his party when it comes to extended unemployment benefits, pending legislation has run into an immovable Republican roadblock. The number of adversely affected Americans topped 3 million this week, and GOP leaders didn’t bat an eye.
 
Heller, however, has an idea.
Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., wants President Barack Obama to get more involved with talks to revive an unemployment extension, as he continues to urge his GOP House colleagues to act.
 
“The president needs to get more involved in this discussion right now,” Heller said Tuesday. “I know it’s important to him. … I do believe that if the president would be more engaged on this particular topic we could get something done.”
Look, the senator’s heart is in the right place. I’m reluctant to criticize a guy who’s made a good-faith effort to do the right thing.
 
But to think President Obama can help get a bill through the Republican-led House by getting “more involved” is pretty silly.
 
Even if we put aside the fact that the president and his team were heavily engaged in this issue for months – Labor Secretary Thomas Perez recently pleaded with House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), urging him to at least consider doing the right thing – the problem has nothing to do with White House “involvement.”
 
The problem has everything to do with the fact that House Republican leaders oppose the idea and won’t even allow members to vote on a jobless-aid extension.
 
Sure, in years past, it might have made a difference to have a president call congressional leaders, giving them the hard sell, but here’s a general question for Heller or anyone else: when was the last time House Republicans became more inclined to do something because Obama asked politely?
 
Isn’t the exact opposite true? Wouldn’t it be more accurate to say the more the president asks House GOP lawmakers to do something, the less likely they are to do it – precisely because they oppose everything Obama supports?
 
I’m not doubting Heller’s sincerity, but given the circumstances, to get UI through Congress, he would have far more luck pressuring House Republicans than the president would.
 

Dean Heller, Nevada and Unemployment

The limits of presidential 'involvement'

Updated