Boehner questions Senate jobless aid deal

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) voiced concern Friday over the Senate’s bipartisan deal to extend unemployment benefits.

Sens. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) and Dean Heller (R-Nev.) announced Thursday they had reached a compromise with eight of their colleagues from both parties to renew the aid for five months. 

The $10 billion measure would retroactively give benefits to unemployed people who stopped receiving the federal insurance after the program expired Dec. 28.  

Boehner’s office wouldn’t comment on the bill for the record, but a House GOP leadership aide told The Hill the Speaker was concerned the retroactive pay would prove unworkable and that it does not contain a jobs provision, among other issues. 

Republicans expect to hear states' concerns, the aide said, about the feasibility of determining who had been eligible for the insurance earlier in the year.

Implementing the Senate bill, for example, might amount to making lump-sum payments to people who already have had jobs.

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On Friday, Boehner was asked by The Associated Press to comment on the Senate bill.

“You mean the one that can’t be implemented?” he replied. 

The Obama administration aggressively pressed Congress to extend the federal program late last year and has continued to make it a top priority.

In its initial push, Boehner said an extension must be offset with spending cuts and must include job creation provisions.

The Senate is expected to take up the measure later this month, after it returns from recess.

Its fate in the House would likely be determined by its success in the Senate. It’s also unclear whether the lower chamber would even take up the Senate’s bill if it passed.

House GOP leaders have previously warned they wouldn’t commit to an extension of the program, unless it contains significant reforms. 

At least 1.3 million Americans have already lost their benefits since the program expired nearly three months ago. Democrats have claimed that number has increased to two million people.