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Posted at 4:15 p.m. on March 19, 2014
Updated 5:34 p.m. | The top authors of the bipartisan Senate unemployment insurance extension bill defended their work after Speaker John A. Boehner torched it Wednesday.
Sens. Dean Heller, R-Nev., and Jack Reed, D-R.I., who represent the two states with the highest unemployment rates in the nation, each issued statements to Roll Call defending the proposal and decrying people trying to find excuses not to pass it.
“Since December, Senator Reed and I have been working to get these vital benefits to the millions of unemployed Americans who need them,” Heller said in an email sent from his office. “It is extremely disappointing that, no matter what solution is reached, there is some excuse to deny these much-needed benefits. I look forward to passing this proposal out of the Senate next week, and stand ready to help the Speaker, as well as any organization or any individual necessary, in order to make this extension a reality.”
Boehner slammed the unemployment bill earlier Wednesday, saying it failed to meet his test of being fiscally responsible and adding jobs. The Ohio Republican cited a letter from state unemployment officials warning about the bureaucratic requirements of the legislation potentially delaying implementation for months to suggest the bill is “unworkable.”
Reed, meanwhile, called for quick action.
“I agree that time is of the essence and if the House tries to drag this out, it will make it tougher for states to get this needed assistance out the door and into hands of job seekers,” Reed said in a statement. “The fact remains that Congress has passed retroactive [benefits] several times and this legislation can be implemented. … The real question is will Speaker Boehner allow an up or down vote on this bipartisan compromise? Congress should focus on passing this responsible, temporary reauthorization instead of looking for excuses not to help job seekers.”
Adam Jentleson, a spokesman for Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said they want to work with Boehner.
“We believe the concerns that have been expressed are resolvable and we look forward to Speaker Boehner coming to the table to find solutions,” he said. “It is hard to imagine Speaker Boehner simply walking away from the thousands of people in Ohio who lost their jobs through no fault of their own and need this lifeline to make ends meet while they continue to look for work.”
A group of five Democrats and five Republicans, including Reed and Heller, negotiated the agreement, which was unveiled last week.
The Senate is expected to vote on the proposal as soon as next week after voting on a Ukraine aid package.
A Senate Democratic aide noted that the issues the state employment officials had with the bill were due to new requirements demanded by Senate Republicans as the price for their votes.