Boehner Rejects Senate Bill to Extend Jobless Benefits

Boehner Rejects Senate Bill to Extend Jobless Benefits
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House Speaker John Boehner has swatted down a bipartisan Senate proposal to extend unemployment insurance, citing concerns expressed by a prominent trade group that said the legislation “would substantially increase the administrative burden on states.”

Last Thursday, five Republicans joined all 55 Senate Democrats in sponsoring legislation that would extend unemployment payments through May 31 -- and make it retroactive to the beginning of the year.

But the move by Boehner, an Ohio Republican, signals that even if legislation to extend the jobless aid wins Senate approval, it would likely die in the House.

“Bottom line: The Senate bill is essentially unworkable,” Boehner said in a statement Wednesday.

The letter Boehner cited in rebuffing the Senate approach was sent by Mark Henry, president of the National Association of State Workforce Agencies. Addressed to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, the letter said the organization takes no official position on the Senate bill, but cited several ways in which it would burden some states.

Henry mentioned “antiquated and rigid computer systems” that states already struggle with and that would “add to the burden of administering the extension.” He also said the extension would cause delays in program implementation and increase administrative costs.

The letter laid out other concerns as well:

-- The Senate legislation does not make clear on how states would be get funding for the administrative costs of determining eligibility.

-- Although the Senate bill means-tests the unemployment payments, not all states have an infrastructure in place to determine recipients’ incomes or net worth.

-- Backdating insurance claims to Dec. 29, 2013, which the Senate bill calls for, would make it difficult for states to verify the requirements in the law that claimants were looking for work --and would likely lead to fraud and abuse.

Boehner said that Republicans “have always said that we’re willing to look at extending emergency unemployment benefits again, if Washington Democrats can come up with a plan that is fiscally responsible, and gets to the root of the problem by helping to create more private-sector jobs.”

He asserted that there is “no evidence that the bill being rammed through the Senate by Leader Reid meets that test, and according to these state directors, the bill is also simply unworkable. Frankly, a better use of the Senate’s time would be taking up and passing the dozens of House-passed jobs bills still awaiting action.”

Over on the Senate side of the Capitol, a Reid aide said Democrats are not giving up.

“We believe the concerns that have been expressed are resolvable and we look forward to Speaker Boehner coming to the table to find solutions," said Reid spokesman Adam Jentleson. "It is hard to imagine Speaker Boehner simply walking away from the thousands of people in Ohio who lost their jobs through no fault of their own and need this lifeline to make ends meet while they continue to look for work.” 

Jose R. Gonzalez is an intern for RealClearPolitics.

 

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