House Democrats will use a parliamentary tactic Wednesday to try to force a vote to renew unemployment benefits, but Republicans say it's just a "futile" attempt to seem relevant in an election year.
Rep. Brad Schneider, Illinois Democrat, will file a discharge petition on Wednesday to force a vote on an unpaid-for extension through the end of the year. If the majority of members sign the petition, the House would have to bring the bill to the floor for a final vote.
"Failing to extend unemployment insurance, a critical lifeline for many of our families, is shortsighted and hurts our communities and businesses," Mr. Schneider said. "If my colleagues want to vote against the extension, I respect their right to disagree; but failing to even allow a vote goes against the very progress that families and our constituents demand."
The federal benefits for the long-term unemployed, which would have kicked in when state benefits ran out, expired Dec. 28.
More than 2 million people are now living without the benefits, which averaged about $300 a week, and Democrats have told stories of people losing their homes or struggling to pay bills, casting Republicans as the bad guys who see the unemployed as lazy and unmotivated.
But a GOP leadership aide said the discharge petition is just a political move by Democrats as the midterm elections approach, not a real effort to help the unemployed.
"This pointless discharge petition is a futile effort to make House Democrats feel relevant as the White House and Senate Democrats push an election year agenda aimed at mobilizing their base — not doing what's best for the American people," the aide said.
While it will be difficult if not impossible to clear the 218 signature hurdle, it's the best chance Democrats have to get a vote on the issue. Speaker John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican, repeated that he would only consider a bill that is both completely paid for and includes job creation measures.
"The speaker told the White House before Christmas what it would take to pass another extension: It must be fiscally responsible and include something to help create more private sector jobs. Washington Democrats have not come up with any such plan," said Michael Steel, a spokesman for Mr. Boehner.
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