Republicans push for one amendment to unemployment bill

Senate Republicans announced Thursday that they have put nearly all of their eggs into one amendment basket.

Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) combined several GOP amendments proposed to a five-month extension of federal unemployment insurance and submitted one encompassing amendment.

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The Senate is set to pass a bipartisan plan from Sens. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) and Dean Heller (R-Nev.) to provide retroactive benefits to more than 2 million people who lost their unemployment benefits after the program expired on Dec. 28. 

The measure is fully paid for and has five Republican co-sponsors, making final passage nearly certain Thursday. On Wednesday, the Senate voted 61-38 to end debate on the deal.

But many Republicans filed amendments to the bill even after Senate Majority Leader Harry (D-Nev.) said he wouldn’t allow votes on GOP amendments.

"We have serious job-creating proposals that don’t get a chance to see the light of day because the majority party in the Senate blocks amendments," Thune said on the floor. "Another meager government check isn’t the way to a better and brighter future."

Thune and other Republicans accused Democrats of treating the symptom of unemployment rather than treating the cause by passing legislation to create more jobs.

“Rather than simply trying to perpetually treat the symptoms of unemployment and allowing Americans to suffer in the stagnant Obama economy, it’s time for Congress to get serious about addressing the cause of the problem,” Thune said Thursday. “No matter how you spin it, no matter what government benefit you try to throw at it, there is no substitute for a job.”

Thune's large amendment includes ideas such as repealing ObamaCare, approving construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, stopping Environmental Protection Agency regulations and giving businesses tax breaks.

“My amendment would help create good-paying jobs by reining in burdensome regulatory requirements, shielding workers from the damaging effects of ObamaCare, approving the Keystone XL pipeline and providing permanent tax relief to employers looking to expand and hire,” Thune said.

Thune is calling his amendment the Good Jobs, Good Wages, and Good Hours Act.

It’s unlikely that Reid will allow a vote on the amendment, but Thune could offer it again when the Senate moves on to other job-related measures in coming weeks, such as increasing the federal minimum wage and addressing equal pay for women.

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