Unemployment Extension: Still Dead
Posted at 11:58 a.m. on July 31
Kevin McCarthy of Boonsboro, Md., speaks about his troubles living without an unemployment insurance extension during a rally on the House steps of the Capitol on May 6. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
Long-term unemployed people still wondering if Congress will act on an unemployment extension restoring benefits for millions before going home for the August recess are going to be disappointed again.
The expired emergency unemployment compensation (EUC) program is still dead, and shows no real signs of life beyond weekly press events from Democrats and the occasional long shot proposal from a senator or two.
The House Rules Committee left an unemployment extension off of its final schedule ahead of the break. Senate Democrats aren’t planning to force another vote before heading out, either. President Barack Obama has occasionally spoken out about unemployment benefits in his economic speeches, but mainly to attack Republicans. There is no strategy from the White House or Senate Democrats to force action on an unemployment extension, and there’s no expectation that will change.
That fate probably was sealed when Democrats and the president agreed to a budget deal last year that left out an unemployment extension. The dropping unemployment rate and the lack of clout of unemployed people — they aren’t about to go fund a SuperPAC — have also argued against a resurrection of the unemployment benefits. Some House Republicans have since credited the lack of an unemployment extension with helping to bring down the unemployment rate.
The last hint of action out of the Senate was extinguished when Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., chose not to condition part of the Highway Trust Fund measure on passage of an unemployment extension. Democratic leaders also did not include it in the supplemental spending bill pending on the floor — a move that had been urged by some advocates of an unemployment extension.
The Senate voted on its version of a highway bill without any hint of an unemployment revival. The House is likely to reject the Senate plan and insist on the House plan — which is paid for with the same offset — “pension smoothing” — that the Senate had used for the unemployment extension bill it passed months ago.
Obama backed the House highway bill even though it nuked the unemployment offsets.
Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., told CQ Roll Call he and Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., are still talking about ways to revive it.
“Jack [Reed] and I had a conversation last week just trying to figure — you know there are no pay-fors left out there — trying to figure out how we can move this thing forward. We haven’t given up, we are just still trying to figure out the our next move is,” Heller said.
The next move is almost certainly a trip home for the August recess in a matter of hours.
Humberto Sanchez contributed to this report.
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