Dem calls GOP jobless benefits bill 'heartless'

A top-ranking House Democratic lawmaker promised a "confrontation" on the floor during debate over a unemployment insurance/payroll tax break extension.

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At a procedural committee hearing on Monday night, Ways and Means Committee ranking member Rep. Sander Levin (D-Mich.) warned his GOP colleagues that Democrats were furious about provisions in the must-pass measure to extend the current payroll tax rate holiday and extend and reform unemployment benefits.

"We're headed for a confrontation on the Floor tomorrow," Levin said in response to Ways and Means Committee Chairman Rep. Dave Camp's (R-Mich.) statement on the 369-page bill up for consideration.

The veteran lawmaker pulled no punches in a preview of Tuesday's 90-minute floor debate, calling the provisions related to phasing back the current 99 weeks of unemployment insurance benefits a "heartless, and I think mindless and reckless way to proceed."

Camp pointed out that the provision related to trimming the weeks of unemployment provided to job-seekers was proposed earlier this year by President Barack Obama.

As with most must-pass items, Congress seems to wait until the last minute before voting on bills to deal with those measures.

With the current unemployment benefits and payroll tax holiday set to expire on December 31st, linguistically creative Rep. Alcee Hastings accused Republicans of coming down with the seasonal "deadlineitis" in producing a bill combining key provisions attractive to different factions within the conference to ensure its passage.

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But Hastings - who ticked off several items he opposed in the bill - charged that the exercise would fail, even if the House approves the bill on Tuesday.

 "It is not going to pass the Senate, the President said that he would reject it, and I just feel that we could do better, should do better, must do better - it is must-pass legislation," Hastings predicted.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) on Monday evening told reporters that he thought the bill "had a shot" of passing in the Democratic-controlled Senate; he left open the possibility that the House would adjourn before the president signed the measure though.