Bush Backs GOP Bill to Extend Jobless Aid
President Bush announced support Monday for a $2.5-billion Republican-backed plan to extend unemployment benefits for 10 weeks beyond the 26 weeks now allowed--half as long as proposed in a $5.8-billion Democratic version scheduled for Senate debate today.
Bush made a rare stop before microphones on the South Lawn of the White House as he departed to address the United Nations in New York, going out of his way to point out that he had spent the morning on a domestic issue. Democrats have charged that the President has not spent enough time on domestic affairs as the nation struggles to pull out of a recession.
Bush said he had been busy calling senators and asking them to support the 10-week plan sponsored by Senate Minority Leader Bob Dole (R-Kan.).
The President called Dole’s plan “forward-looking” and said it “takes care of those who really need help. So I’ve been focusing on that this morning and calling several senators about it.”
“I just hope that the Senate will do what’s needed, and that is help these people but also do something that is budgetarily sound . . . and where we stay within the budget agreement,” he said.
Last month, Bush signed, but refused to implement, a $5.2-billion Democrat-sponsored law enabling him to extend benefits for 20 weeks. The President had argued that the recession was over and that the measure violated last year’s budget agreement between the White House and Congress.
The President blocked the law from taking effect by refusing to declare an emergency, as is required for any expenditure that goes beyond what the budget pact allows.
His critics said this was evidence of the President’s indifference to domestic problems.
Last Tuesday, defying a veto threat, the House voted by a veto-proof 283-125 margin for another bill to extend the benefits for up to 20 weeks for an estimated 3.5 million long-term jobless Americans.
Democrats are eager to get the extension through Congress again because they believe that, if Bush vetoes the bill, even if they fail to override him, they will have a potent issue for the 1992 presidential campaign.
Republicans last week repeated complaints that the Democrats’ bill would break the deficit-cutting agreement and result in a higher federal deficit.
The Dole bill provides for raising the money by auctioning federal broadcasting frequency rights.
Richard G. Darman, director of the Office of Mangement and Budget, said Bush would immediately sign the Dole plan.