Senators urge House to take up unemployment extension

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Senators urged Speaker John A. Boehner on Thursday to hold a vote on a bill to extend unemployment insurance that will expire in one month.

Sen. Jack Reed, Rhode Island Democrat, said there is already bipartisan support in the House for the paid-for, five-month extension to long-term unemployment benefits that passed the Senate 25 days ago.


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“I’m confident if it’s brought to the floor, it’ll pass,” he said. “Very confident.”

The extension would be retroactive to the end of December and would expire June 1. The long-term benefits kick in once state unemployment benefits run out.

Sen. Dean Heller, Nevada Republican who worked with Mr. Reed on the bill, said he spoke with Mr. Boehner Tuesday afternoon about what it would take to bring up an extension. Mr. Heller said he got the same response the speaker gave to the president: for the bill to be fully offset and include job creation measures.

“I said fine, get those job creation measures in there and bring it to the floor,” Mr. Heller said.

Much of the GOP frustration comes from the party’s belief that several job-creation bills have passed the House, but never gotten a vote in the Senate, Mr. Heller said. Many GOP members believe tying some of these measures to an unemployment insurance extension is the only way to get them done, he said.

Mr. Heller also said he urged Mr. Boehner to separate the two issues: immediate relief for the 2.6 million people struggling without the federal benefits and dealing with the long-term issue of creating more jobs so emergency unemployment benefits aren’t necessary in the future.

Mr. Reed, however, said Mr. Boehner’s demand that the job creation measures come from the White House is just unreasonable.

“It’s an excuse, not a good reason,” he said.

Mr. Heller declined to comment on what he and Mr. Reed would do if the bill expires before the House holds a vote, saying only “we’re committed to this bill today.”

It’s unclear if the Senate could drum up enough GOP support to pass another bill if the current effort fails, given that it took months for Democrats to get five Republicans to support the extension it sent to the House.

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