- The Washington Times - Friday, January 3, 2014

Labor Secretary Thomas E. Perez continued the administration’s push for Congress to restore emergency unemployment benefits for approximately 1.3 million people who were cut off last month, arguing that past Congresses did so without demanding offsetting cuts elsewhere in the budget.

“There is a long, proud, bipartisan history of expanding emergency unemployment benefits during times like this, dating back decades, whether it was the recession of 1981 or as recently as four years ago, when President Bush was president,” Mr. Perez said on MSNBC’s “The Daily Rundown.”

Mr. Perez said he’s “very appreciative” of work by Sens. Jack Reed, Rhode Island Democrat, and Dean Heller, Nevada Republican, who have crafted a plan that would extend the benefits for three months at a cost of $6.5 billion that would not be offset. 

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, has said he will bring up the issue right away when the Senate returns from a two-week recess on Monday. A yearlong extension of the benefits would cost approximately $25 billion.

House Republicans have signaled they are open to an extension if Democrats present a plan that offsets the spending. Asked if the administration would be open to finding offsets for either a short-term or long-term extension, Mr. Perez was unspecific.

“We want to find a solution that works, but I would note historically…when Ronald Reagan extended emergency unemployment benefits in the recession of ‘81, the Republicans in Congress weren’t demanding an offset,” he said. “When George Bush did this in 2008, that wasn’t the demand, and the important thing to understand here is that this is not only the right thing to do but it’s the smart thing to do because the people who are getting this money — they’re not investing in some offshore bank account, they’re spending it on the basic necessities of life.”