Senate Democrats are planning one final push next week to extend emergency unemployment benefits for three months.
With it, they have the opportunity not just to restore benefits for the 1.3 million Americans who lost them on Sunday, but also to test House Speaker John Boehner’s supposed newfound willingness to break from the tea party.
Senators Jack Reed (D-R.I.) and Dean Heller’s (R-Nev.) bill to extend unemployment benefits for long-term unemployed for another three months would cost $6.4 billion. Reed and Heller have not included any offsets yet, but may do so in the future. Republicans want spending offsets for the extension while Democrats are less inclined to include them.
While Democrats are right here on the policy merits, they should instead relent and find a spending offset to entice more Republicans to support the bill.
The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget put forward some options earlier today:
That will make it much easier for Democrats to convince four other Senate Republicans to break from the party and join Heller in support of the legislation so that it can clear the filibuster.
If it passes the senate, then the real fun begins.
In early December, John Boehner signaled that he would be open to an extension of jobless benefits if spending offsets were included.
“When the White House finally called me last Friday about extending unemployment benefits, I said that we would clearly consider it as long as long as it’s paid for and as long as there are other efforts that will help get our economy moving once again,” he said.
Boehner gave himself a little wiggle room at the end there, but this was also before he publicly flipped out on conservative groups over the Murray-Ryan budget deal. If Democrats can get the bill past the senate, they can put immense pressure on the speaker to bring the legislation up for a vote and defy the tea party once again. It would also be very interesting to see where Rep. Paul Ryan falls on the issue.
If that happens, Democrats would not only have gotten an extension of unemployment benefits, they also would have created an even greater schism between the Republican establishment and the tea party. It all begins with finding a spending offset that is amenable to Republicans.
Correction: This post originally stated Sen. Jack Reed was from Delaware. He is actually from Rhode Island.
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