Dems try to force House vote to extend unemployment benefits

Democrats on Wednesday will file a petition aimed at forcing the House to vote on legislation extending emergency unemployment benefits.

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The discharge petition has almost no chance of succeeding, as it would only force a House vote on an unemployment bill if a majority of House members sign it.

That's unlikely given Republican opposition to an extension of these benefits — the GOP has said it would consider an extension bill that also takes real steps to create jobs, but Democrats have mostly pushed for a straight extension.

But Democrats also hope filing the discharge petition will put a bigger spotlight on the issue and make Republicans uncomfortable in an election year. 

"Failing to extend unemployment insurance, a critical lifeline for many of our families, is shortsighted and hurts our communities and businesses," said freshman Rep. Brad Schneider (D-Ill.), who will file the discharge petition. "If my colleagues want to vote against the extension, I respect their right to disagree, but failing to even allow a vote goes against the very progress that families and our constituents demand."

The Democratic-controlled Senate has failed twice to pass an unemployment extension. 

In early February, Democrats fell just one vote short of the 60 votes needed to end debate on the latest version of the bill, which would have allowed it to pass easily by a simple majority vote.

The focus of the discharge petition is H.R. 3546, a bill from House Ways and Means Committee ranking member Sandy Levin (D-Mich.). That bill would extend emergency unemployment benefits until the end of 2014.

They expired in late December, and Democrats have been pushing since then to renew benefits that they say more than 1 million people are now doing without.

While 218 signatures would be needed to require a House vote on this bill, Levin's bill had 92 co-sponsors as of Tuesday morning. Schneider's petition will likely prompt all 199 Democrats to sign up.

Schneider's procedural move follows a decision by Democrats late last month to launch another discharge petition to require a House vote on legislation to raise the minimum wage. The Democratic bill would increase the wage from $7.25 to $10.10 per hour.

But that petition is also expected to fall short of 218 signatures needed to force a vote.

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