On Monday, the Senate will pass an extension of federal unemployment benefits, at which point, the popular, bipartisan bill will immediately die
at the hands of House Republicans.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) on Friday gave every indication that the House will not consider a bill to extend emergency unemployment benefits, even if the Senate passes the bill as expected early next week. Cantor was asked directly on the House floor by Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) whether Senate action on its bill next week might prompt the House to act. Cantor did not explicitly say yes or no, but strongly indicated Republicans would not consider it. "It doesn't create any jobs, and right now we are in the business of trying to see how we can get people back to work, for an America that works for more people," he said.
Cantor's response isn't surprising -- House GOP leaders have made it abundantly clear for months that they're opposed to the jobless-aid bill, no matter its form -- but it is striking the degree to which his comments contradict the evidence.
We seem to have reached a point in the debate in which the House Majority Leader and his allies simply don't want to acknowledge the connection between job creation and unemployment benefits.
It's as if the evidence exists in some blind spot that GOP lawmakers choose not to see.
Some Republicans have argued that extending jobless aid would create hundreds of thousands of jobs, but it's simply not worth the investment. Indeed, Doug Holtz-Eakin made that argument explicitly in December, saying
the bill would create 300,000 jobs in 2014, but he said that wasn't enough to make the policy worthwhile to him.
Other Republican have insisted that extending unemployment benefits, helping those struggling to keep their heads above water, is morally offensive, regardless of the economic impact. Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Texas) made this argument explicitly in February, saying
, "I believe it is immoral for this country to have as a policy extending long-term unemployments [sic
These aren't good arguments, of course, but there's at least a certain coherence to them. The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office said extending jobless aid would be worth at least 200,000 jobs this year. The GOP can say, "That's not enough to make us care." The party can also say, "Those totals don't override our moral objections to the aid."
But for Cantor to say UI "doesn't create any jobs" is just bizarre
[T]he Congressional Budget Office has repeatedly estimated that unemployment extensions add thousands and thousands of private sector jobs to the economy. In December, the CBO said a Democratic proposal to restore long-term benefits for a full year would increase employment by about 200,000 jobs by the end of 2014.
Has the Majority Leader not seen this report? Does he deny its existence?
As for the contention that Cantor and House Republicans are "in the business of trying to see how we can get people back to work," it's worth noting that when independent estimates found that the proposed Americans Jobs Act would have created over 1 million jobs in 2012, Cantor's caucus wouldn't even hold a vote.
Asked to present an alternative jobs agenda -- that can be independently scored -- the House GOP caucus hasn't produced much
Let's make this plain. Asked about extended unemployment benefits, Cantor believes, "It doesn't create any jobs." Asked about extended unemployment benefits, the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office believes the policy is worth 200,000 jobs.
The Majority Leader isn't arguing that the CBO is wrong; he's just pretending the CBO report doesn't exist.
I suspect there are about 2 million Americans looking for work right now who wouldn't mind an explanation.