House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) on Friday gave every indication that the House will not consider a bill to extend emergency unemployment benefits, even if the Senate passes the bill as expected early next week.
Cantor was asked directly on the House floor by Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) whether Senate action on its bill next week might prompt the House to act. Cantor did not explicitly say yes or no, but strongly indicated Republicans would not consider it.
Cantor noted that the idea of retroactively extending benefits that expired in late December would be unworkable, and said many state officials have made this clear to Congress. That prompted Hoyer to ask whether Republicans could consider a prospective bill, but Cantor dismissed that idea as well.
"It is my opinion that what the gentleman asks for is a continuance of the status quo," he said.
"We want to get people back to work. We're in the business of job creation. We want to provide a better environment for businesses to hire people."
Cantor's remarks are consistent with comments Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and other Republicans have made over the past several months: that the GOP wants to streamline job-training programs and take other steps to help people find work. Today, Cantor held to that line even after Hoyer argued that for many, the issue is that there are not enough jobs to go around.
"Those who are out of work beyond that who are deemed chronically unemployed want most an opportunity to get back to work," he said. "That's where I believe we ought to focus our efforts and really help people get back into a job."
The Senate is expected to pass a five-month extension of unemployment benefits on Monday, which would hand the bill to the House and likely increase Democratic pressure on Republicans to consider it.
Soon after Cantor spoke on the House floor, House Ways and Means Committee ranking member Sandy Levin (D-Mich.) rejected Cantor's assertion that extending the benefits means extending the status quo.
"It's not accepting the status quo, it's whether we will penalize over 2 million long-term unemployed looking for work, who have lost their unemployment insurance because of the overall economic situation in this country," Levin said.