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Heller blames Obama for unemployment benefits extension failure

Sen. Dean Heller, R-NV blames President Barack Obama for the unemployment benefits extension not passing as opposed to the House Republicans, July 7, 2014
Sen. Dean Heller, R-NV blames President Barack Obama for the unemployment benefits extension not passing as opposed to the House Republicans, July 7, 2014
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Senator Dean Heller, R-NV, the Republican half of the bipartisan duo working to pass an extension of long-term unemployment benefits is not giving up on the bill as long as his native Nevada has the "second-highest unemployment rate" in the country. Heller co-authored and sponsored two bills to extend the Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC) program with fellow senator and a Democrat, Jack Reed, D-RI. Speaker of the House of Representatives, John Boehner, R-OH failed to put their Senate passed bill to a vote even and it expired on June 1, 2014. Heller in comments published on July 7, 2014 on Capitol Public Radio blames the White House and President Barack Obama, for the bill's failure, because they refused to negotiate with Boehner and provide him with an acceptable list of job creating provisions as he requested on deaf ears. Republicans however, see the June jobs reports as a vindication for not extending benefits as unemployment fell, including the long-term unemployment rate.

Heller as a former Congressman has close ties with the House Republicans that has not however, helped him get the extension bill passed. Heller however, expressed that; "They've been very positive to me. They understand where I'm coming from and the state of Nevada and the situation, the economic situation, in the state of Nevada." Unlike the majority of the long-term unemployed, President Barack Obama and the Democrats, Heller does not blame the GOP House for his bill, not being passed; instead he blames Obama and the White House. Heller explains; "Just ask them what will it take and I know they want job creation portions added to the legislation, which I agree with, but let's move forward."

Heller has been blaming Obama for the inaction on the bill since it expired in June, echoing a chorus that includes Speaker Boehner and Congressional Quarterly's Roll Call that the president's active interjection in negotiation rather than his casual remarks criticizing Republicans would make a difference. Speaker Boehner had been trying to coax Obama or the White House in general to provide in general a list of acceptable job creating provisions to the Emergency Unemployment Compensation Extension Act of 2014.

Boehner has specifically been pressuring the president since after the bill passed in the Senate and was transferred to the committee stage in the House. Job creation provisions were a key demand from the speaker in order to put the bill to a House vote. Obama had his press secretaries respond and his Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez, who provided a Democratic job creation wish list, but not one that would satisfy Republicans in a May 7 letter to Boehner. The president however, will not phone and discuss the bill with the speaker, instead giving campaign style speeches blaming the GOP have been his mantra, as they help the Democrats in the upcoming midterm elections.

The first Reed-Heller bill passed the Senate on April 7, 2014, but since it included a retroactive element with a five-month deadline valid only from Dec. 28, 2013 to June 1, 2014, the GOP House could choose to ignore it and it would expire. The new bill Reed and Heller introduced on June 24 would not make the same mistake; it does not have a deadline. The new stand-alone bill attempts to comply more with Speaker of the House John Boehner's, R-OH demands. The bill will have a five-month extension, lasting approximately until the end of 2014. The new bill will cost a total of $10 billion and will be paid for by revenue, including "pension smoothing" and "extending Customs user fees through 2024" as was the last bill.

There has been no action however, even in the Senate on the new bill, and the govtrack.us website says it only has a two percent chance of passing. Other options remain including adding the unemployment benefits extension bill as an amendment to popular must pass bipartisan bills including the business tax cuts extenders "S.2260 - EXPIRE Act of 2014" and the Highway Trust Fund bill "S.2322: MAP-21 Reauthorization Act." The highway bill, which is now facing two different incarnations in the House and Senate, the bill must pass this summer with "100,000 transportation projects" and "700,000 construction jobs" on the line.

Despite Sen. Heller not blaming the House GOP, most Republicans have opposed extending the EUC program, because they claim it encourages the long-term employed not to look for work, calling the program "immoral." Their strategy has been; cut benefits and force them to return to work. The Congressional Budget Office claimed the opposite, stopping benefits would harm the economy, slowing growth, because millions would not have money to spend and put back in the economy. On Dec. 28, 2013 1.3 million lost benefits, six months later the number is over 3 million.

The June jobs report seems to have vindicated Republicans in their philosophy with Charles Krauthammer announcing on Fox News' "Special Report"; "The debate on that extension is over, and the conservatives were right."The unemployment rate fell by 0.2 percent, from 6.3 in May to 6.1 percent, lower than pre-Great Recession numbers. Additionally 215,000 jobs were added; private businesses accounted for 262,000 jobs, while the government contributed 26,000.

Long-term unemployment also fell by 293,000 and in total has dropped 700,000 in the past three months since March, there are however, still 3.1 million unemployed for six months or more, and compromise 32.8 percent of all unemployed Americans. One of the speaker's spokesman Matt Wolking responded that; "More unemployment checks won't create less unemployment. In fact, the evidence suggests they create more." Republicans like to believe the long-term unemployed found jobs, when forced however, many may have "dropped out of the labor force altogether."

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Bonnie K. Goodman is the Editor of the Academic Buzz Network, a series of political, academic & education blogs which includes History Musings: History, News & Politics. She has a BA in History & Art History & a Masters in Library and Information Studies, both from McGill University, and has done graduate work in Jewish history at Concordia University as part of the MA in Judaic Studies program. She covers US, Canadian & Israeli politics, with a particular focus on the Obama presidency, Congress, domestic policy, and elections.