Sen. Casey: Jobless aid should be paid for

Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) on Tuesday said Congress should find a way to offset the cost of renewing federal unemployment benefits.

“I think we can find an offset and we should,” Casey said Tuesday on MSNBC. “As you know, we went a lot of years in this country providing unemployment compensation without an offset. But if that is what it takes to get it done, then I think we can get that done.”

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President Obama and Democrats are pressuring Republicans to pass an extension of the jobless aid, which expired on Saturday for nearly 1.3 million people. The benefits, first put in place in 2008, have been going to people when state benefits run out.

While some Republicans have called for an end to the long-term benefits, Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has not taken a firm position on extending the program. The GOP has indicated that any deal to extend the program would need to be offset.

The price tag for a yearlong extension of the aid is $26 billion.

Casey said closing loopholes in the tax code is a a ripe target for finding offsets to fund the program.

“There are plenty of places to go,” he said. “Often the tax code provides some opportunities.”

He added, “And I hope our Republican friends are willing to join us to get rid of some loopholes that have been in place for a long period of time.”

Obama has called for a temporary extension of the benefits without offsets. The president has endorsed a plan by Sens. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) and Dean Heller (R-Nev.) that is teed up as the first order of business when the Senate returns in January.

Democrats, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.), have argued that offsets are unnecessary and have pointed to studies that show the benefits drive money into the economy.

Casey echoed that sentiment on Tuesday, but endorsed offsets for a long-term extension.  

“If we don’t continue this kind of unemployment compensation ... we lose by one estimate 200,000 jobs, by another over 300,000 jobs,” he said.