By Vicki Needham - 01/06/14 10:34 AM EST
The conservative Club for Growth is urging lawmakers to oppose a reauthorization of federal unemployment benefits unless the $6 billion program is paid for with other spending cuts.
The group argued that unemployment should no longer be considered an emergency nearly six years after the federal benefits were first offered by former President George W. Bush.
“Congress should end the federal unemployment insurance program and return the authority back to the states, which already have programs in place,” Andy Roth, Club for Growth's vice president of government affairs, wrote to senators on Monday.
“Absent this, Congress should pay for this extension by cutting spending elsewhere in the budget.
“After six years, an extension can no longer be called an 'emergency' with any credibility,” Roth wrote. “There is plenty of waste in the federal budget from which to find an offset.”
The Senate is scheduled to vote on a motion to begin debate on a three-month continuation co-sponsored by Sens. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) and Dean Heller (R-Nev.) that would cost about $6.4 billion and isn't paid for with other spending cuts.
Extending the benefits for a year would cost roughly $25 billion.
About 1.3 million people who have been unemployed for at least six months lost the benefits when they expired on Dec. 28. The program was first implemented in June 2008 and was last reauthorized a year ago in the "fiscal cliff" deal.
The White House is pressing the Senate and House to extend the program.
Democratic lawmakers have talked about using farm bill savings to pay for the program.
Still, Democratic Reps. Chris Van Hollen (Md.) and Sandy Levin (Mich.), as well as the White House, have offered up plans that are paid for. Their plans have been rejected by Speaker John Bohener (R-Ohio).
Republican support has been scarce in both chambers and casts doubt on the prospects for pushing a bill through Congress, especially without the offsets that Democrats largely oppose.