WASHINGTON — As soon as the Democratic-controlled Senate passed a measure Monday to extend unemployment aid to jobless Americans, a beleaguered group of House
But the Republican lawmakers are fighting an uphill battle against their leaders, and Boehner has shown little interest in passing an unemployment insurance extension, panning the Senate bill as unworkable.
“As many Americans continue to struggle without benefits, we respectfully request that the House immediately consider this bill or a similar measure to restore unemployment benefits to struggling Americans,” wrote Rep.
Even as the economy shows signs of recovery, about a third of the states have unemployment rates above the national average of 6.7%, putting pressure on lawmakers to act.
Six Republican senators joined the bipartisan Senate proposal, which was approved 59 to 38. The measure would provide benefits for five months, retroactive to December, meaning the aid would stop again at the end of May.
More Republicans had initially agreed to consider the bill, but they dropped their support in the final vote when no agreement could be reached between party leaders to allow amendments to the deal.
“We're simply saying give us a chance to make our case,” said Republican Sen.
The Senate bill was a hard-fought compromise that came after more than three months of behind-the-scenes wrangling to build bipartisan support.
Democrats agreed to a GOP demand that the $9.7-billion cost of aid be paid for by imposing additional customs fees and using a short-term tax revenue bump from temporarily lowering the amount companies must provide for their pensions.
The deal also blocked millionaires from receiving unemployment benefits, and set up enhanced training programs to help the unemployed get back to work.
Republicans in the House scoffed at the funding mechanism as a gimmick, and Boehner sided with state workforce administrators who said the short-term nature of the deal would make it cumbersome to implement.
More to the point, however, some Republicans believe extended aid discourages unemployed people from finding work, and they want Congress to instead focus on job creation.
They argued that federal aid has gone on long enough. The extended benefits kick in after the unemployed have exhausted state benefits, usually after 26 weeks of joblessness.
"The American people are still asking, 'Where are the jobs?'" said Boehner's spokesman Michael Steel. "House Republicans are focused on our jobs agenda for families and small businesses."