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One week left for House to act on unemployment extension, urge your rep to vote

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The Senate went on a two week recess on Thursday, May 22, 2014 until Thursday, June 5, 2014 putting any unemployment benefits extension in limbo and on hold while Senators enjoy the Memorial Day holiday weekend as 3.5 million long-term jobless Americans suffer with benefits that have run out or will imminently run out. At the point of their return the Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC) program would have been expired for over five months from Dec. 28, 2013, while the Senate passed bill the Emergency Unemployment Compensation Extension Act of 2014 would have expired on May 31, 2014 without Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-OH putting the bill to a vote in the House of Representatives. However, with a week left Americans can still encourage their Congressional representative to push the bill to a vote.

The unemployment extension bill's co-sponsors and authors Senators Jack Reed, D-RI and Dean Heller, R-NV promised in the days before the recess that the EUC program will be extended. They listed out a number of game plans, the easiest adding the bill as an amendment to a popular bipartisan bill that Republicans in the Senate and the House usually support and vote for. Among the candidates are the business tax extenders bill and the transportation bill, both which have always been renewed. Sen. Reed has already proposed adding a one year benefits extension as an amendment to the tax extenders bill.

Both bills will mostly probably be renewed even though the "S.2260 - EXPIRE Act of 2014" the tax extenders was filibustered by the Senate GOP for not being able to add amendments and President Barack Obama opposes the Senate's version of the transportation bills S.2322: MAP-21 Reauthorization Act. The opportunity has passed to add the extension to another possible bill with bipartisan support the "reauthorization of the Workforce Investment Act (PL 105-220)," which is the Senate's bi-partisan job training program and bill. The bill's sponsors Budget Chairman Patty Murray, D-WA, and Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Chairman Tom Harkin, D-IA have already opposed adding the EUC extension as amendment. Republicans in the House however, have expressed interest to adding the unemployment benefits extension to their own jobs training bill, (HR 803) the Supporting Knowledge and Investing in Lifelong Skills (SKILLS) Act.

And if all else fails Reed and Heller are planning to "return to the drawing board" and write a new unemployment benefits bill that would appeal to Republicans and Democrats in both houses. Both Sens. Reed and Heller have already started to work on another unemployment extension bill. Some of the bill's other Senate Republican co-sponsors are worried that as time goes further away from the program's expiration and closer to the midterm elections, the probability of passing the bill lowers. Although they ultimately hoped the House would come to their senses and in the week that is left vote on their Reed-Heller bill that passed in the Senate on April 7, and has been languishing at the House committee stage since then.

Reed and Heller have to decide with any new bills and amendments if there will be a retroactive element to extend unemployment benefits. Another issue is do they try to get a longer extension of a year for long-term jobless benefits. The Heller-Reed bill provided retroactive benefits for five-months from the time the EUC program expired on Dec. 28, 2013 until June 1, 2014. They have also determined that any new bill would cost $2 billion each month and should include measures that would appeal to Republicans such as preventing the collection of both "disability and unemployment benefits."

Meanwhile, Speaker of the House Boehner remains insistent that any unemployment benefits bill put to a vote must include job creations measures approved by the White House and President Obama. The speaker also objects to the Senate ignoring the job creation bills the House has passed. Except for a few urgings in some recent speeches, the president has left himself out of the unemployment extension debate, at its most critical juncture. Instead, Obama has sent his White House Press Secretary Jay Carney and Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez to respond to Boehner's repeated requests.

Carney has rejected Boehner's request to provide a list of job creation measures twice during his daily press briefings in the last month. The press secretary also squashed any hopes that Obama will call Boehner to speak to him about putting the bill to a vote sarcastically saying; "I think it's a novel supposition that Speaker Boehner would suddenly embrace the idea of extended unemployment insurance if the president would just call him and ask for it." While Secretary Perez sent Boehner a letter earlier in the month on May 7, where he offered Democratic preferred measures to that the unemployment benefits extension could be paired with, that Republicans would expose, with the only reasonable option the job training bill.

The only immediate hope is to do as President Obama often encourages in his economic opportunity speeches and weekly addresses on domestic policy, Americans need to contact politely and email or phone their congressional representative in the next week and urge them to get the EUC Extension Act of 2014 to a House vote this upcoming week. There is still time to do something and pass the bill all the House needs is that extra push to remind them of the importance of the bill and how many American voters relay on the extension. It is a midterm election year they might be incentive enough for them to listen.

Contact your representative: Find Your Representative -- Directory of Representatives

RELATED LINKS

  • S.2260 - EXPIRE Act of 2014, Sen. Wyden, Ron [D-OR] (Introduced 04/28/2014), 05/07/2014 Motion to proceed to consideration of measure made in Senate. S. Rept. 113-154

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.

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