House Dems reject GOP offset for jobless aid

House Democratic leaders on Wednesday rejected a proposal by Senate Republicans to pay for the costs of extending federal jobless benefits for the long-term unemployed.

The proposal by Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) would cover the $6.4 billion cost of extending unemployment benefits by blocking illegal immigrants from claiming certain child tax credits.

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Democrats argue that would hurt the children of illegal immigrants.

“We surely don't want essentially to trade off benefits for kids for unemployment insurance,” Rep. Sandy Levin (D-Mich.), the ranking member of the House Ways and Means Committee, told reporters Wednesday after a closed-door meeting of the House Democratic Caucus in the Capitol. “That is not a deal that this institution should be discussing.”

Rep. Xavier Becerra (Calif.), chairman of the Democratic Caucus, echoed that message, arguing that children should not be used as “pawns” in the fight over unemployment benefits.

“If the best that some people can do is tell us that we have to make cuts to services to kids … regardless of how you categorize them … I don't think that's the way America want us to start 2014,” Becerra said. 

Republicans have demanded that the cost of extended unemployment benefits be offset with other spending cuts. Democrats have argued that the benefits represent emergency spending that has not been offset in the past.

Becerra noted that former President George W. Bush extended federal jobless benefits at least five times without offsetting the costs. He wondered why Republicans were supportive of such a proposal under a GOP White House, but not under President Obama.

Unveiled Tuesday, Ayotte's proposal would pay the costs of extending the federal jobless benefits for three months by disallowing illegal immigrants from claiming the Additional Child Tax Credit – a move she says will save taxpayers billions of dollars. 

“This simple fix would require a Social Security number with anyone claiming a child on their tax return,” Ayotte said on the Senate floor Tuesday. “It would save $20 billion over the next 10 years.”  

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