Dems assail Boehner over jobless aid

Getty Images

Democrats on Wednesday assailed Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) for opposing a Senate agreement to extend emergency unemployment benefits for five months.

Boehner criticized the deal as “unworkable,” citing a letter from the National Association of State Workforce Agencies, circulated by his office, that said states would have difficulty implementing it.

{mosads}“The serious problems with the Senate legislation being noted by these state directors — the state employees charged with actually implementing the Senate unemployment insurance legislation if it were to become law — are cause for serious concern,” Boehner said.

A bipartisan group of senators struck the agreement last week after months of on-and-off negotiations about a program that lapsed in late December. The legislation would provide retroactive payments to people who were eligible for unemployment insurance earlier in the year, and it would extend the program through June. It also would prohibit anyone with an income of $1 million or higher in the previous year from receiving unemployment checks.

The Senate could vote on the bill as soon as next week, a source told The Hill.

Yet Boehner’s statement suggested the measure has no future in the House, even if it clears the Senate.

“We believe the concerns that have been expressed are resolvable and we look forward to Speaker Boehner coming to the table to find solutions,” said Adam Jentleson, a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.). “It is hard to imagine Speaker Boehner simply walking away from the thousands of people in Ohio who lost their jobs through no fault of their own and need this lifeline to make ends meet while they continue to look for work.”

Drew Hammill, a spokesman for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), suggested Boehner was using the letter from the state directors as an excuse to oppose an extension of unemployment benefits.

“Obviously, the administration would have to issue guidance to the states, as has been done in past extensions,” Hammill said. “Using these relatively minor concerns to continue to justify leaving more than 2 million people out in the cold further illustrates that unemployed Americans are invisible to House Republicans.”

In his letter Wednesday, the trade group for state unemployment insurance directors warned of “considerable delays” in implementing the Senate proposal.

The trade group has not taken a formal position on the agreement, but its letter on Wednesday raised a number of concerns.

“The requirements in S. 2148 would cause considerable delays in the implementation of the program and increased administrative issues and costs,” NASWA President Mark Henry wrote to Reid and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). “Some states have indicated they might decide such changes are not feasible in the short time available, and therefore would consider not signing the U.S. Department of Labor’s agreement to operate the program.”

Henry said the legislation could take a majority of states between one and three months to implement, further delaying benefits for recipients. And he suggested the “millionaire provision” and the backdating of claims to Dec. 29 would be unworkable.

— Vicki Needham contributed.

Tags Boehner Harry Reid Harry Reid John Boehner John Boehner Mitch McConnell Mitch McConnell Nancy Pelosi unemployment benefits extension
See all Hill.TV See all Video