The Senate approved a five-month extension of federal unemployment benefits on Monday in a 59-38 vote that saw six Republicans break ranks and vote in favor of the legislation.
The bill now goes to the House, where Senior House Republicans have felt little pressure to act on jobless benefits. Although they won’t say so directly, they are likely to ignore the Senate bill.
Senate Democrats are hoping their passage of the bill will raise the pressure on BoehnerJohn BoehnerFormer House leader Bob Michel, a person and politician for the ages Former House GOP leader Bob Michel dies at 93 Keystone pipeline builder signs lobbyist MORE.
“If our bill was put up for a vote in the House, there is no question it would pass,” Sen. Chuck SchumerCharles SchumerDems rip Trump administration for revoking Obama's transgender directive Ellison holds edge in DNC race survey Overnight Cybersecurity: Trump defends Flynn, blasts leaks | Yahoo fears further breach MORE (D-N.Y.) said ahead of Monday’s vote. “The House needs to extend unemployment benefits to millions of Americans right now, without attaching extraneous issues that are merely an attempt to score political points.”
Six Republicans helped Democrats clear Senate hurdles on the legislation.
Sens. Dean HellerDean HellerGreens launch ads against two GOP senators for Pruitt votes GOP groups ramp up pressure on lawmakers over ObamaCare A guide to the committees: Senate MORE (R-Nev.), Susan CollinsSusan CollinsGOP senator grilled over DeVos vote during town hall GOP senator: Flynn should testify on Russia Greens launch ads against two GOP senators for Pruitt votes MORE (R-Maine), Mark KirkMark KirkThe Hill's 12:30 Report Trump, judges on collision course GOP senator: Don't link Planned Parenthood to ObamaCare repeal MORE (R-Ill.), Lisa MurkowskiLisa MurkowskiA guide to the committees: Senate Public lands dispute costs Utah a major trade show Oprah's network provides Senate with tape of abuse allegations by Puzder's ex-wife: report MORE (R-Alaska), Rob PortmanRob PortmanObamaCare fix hinges on Medicaid clash in Senate A guide to the committees: Senate Two tax issues dividing Republicans on ObamaCare MORE (R-Ohio) and Kelly AyotteKelly AyotteLewandowski saw no evidence of voter fraud in New Hampshire NH governor 'not aware’ of major voter fraud Former NH AG: 'Allegations of voter fraud in NH are baseless' MORE (R-N.H.) voted for the unemployment insurance (UI) extension.
After the vote, a spokesman for Boehner reiterated his opposition.
“As the Speaker said months ago, we are willing to look at extending emergency unemployment insurance as long as it includes provisions to help create more private-sector jobs – but, last week, Senate Democratic leaders ruled out adding any jobs measures at all,” Boehner spokesman Michael Steel said. “The American people are still asking, ‘where are the jobs?’ and House Republicans are focused on our jobs agenda for families and small businesses.”
Yet there are a handful of House Republicans, mainly from the Northeast, who do want the party to act, and upon passage of the Senate measure they released a letter to their leadership calling for a vote in the House.
“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 the lawmakers, who were led by Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R-N.J.). Other signatories on the letter were Reps. Peter King (N.Y.), Jon Runyan (N.J.), Chris Smith (N.J.), Chris Gibson (N.Y.), Michael Grimm (N.Y.) and Joe Heck (Nev.).
The White House said Monday that none of the current job-creation proposals being floated by House Republican leaders had a chance of passing in the Senate. A senior administration official said that while the White House was willing to have a conversation about changes to the bill, the White House would not participate in hostage negotiations on issues like the Keystone XL pipeline or changes to ObamaCare.
The unemployment extension co-sponsored by Sens. Jack ReedJack ReedA guide to the committees: Senate Cruz: Supreme Court 'likely' to uphold Trump order Schumer: Trump should see 'handwriting on the wall,' drop order MORE (D-R.I.) and Heller and would provide retroactive benefits to more than 2 million people who lost their federal unemployment benefits after the program expired on Dec. 28.
Senate Republicans blocked three previous attempts to extend the benefits, but this time, the legislation had five Republican co-sponsors, making passage certain.
The Senate measure would use several offsets to pay for the nearly $10 billion cost of the measure, including pension smoothing provisions from the 2012 highway bill, which were set to phase out this year, and extending customs user fees through 2024.
The Senate deal also includes an additional offset allowing single-employer pension plans to prepay their flat rate premiums to the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. (PBGC).
The measure would prevent millionaires and billionaires from receiving the federal benefits.
The proposal also includes language to strengthen re-employment and eligibility assessment and re-employment services programs, which provide help to unemployed workers, when they enter their 27th week of benefits.
But many Republicans still opposed the bill because they weren’t able to add “job-creating” amendments such as legislation to repeal parts of ObamaCare, approve construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, enforce the E-verify system and stop Environmental Protection Agency regulations.
The emergency federal program kicks in once workers who have continued looking for a new job exhaust their state-level benefits, usually after 26 weeks.