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Unemployment Extension Vote Not Worrying House Republicans

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call
Reid, left, plans to bring the bipartisan unemployment benefits extension to the Senate floor soon. In the House, Boehner and his fellow Republicans plan to hold out for more concessions from Democrats.

Labor Secretary Thomas E. Perez tried to allay those concerns last week, saying that the implementation issues could be worked out. But for the time being, it has given Boehner and his conference a reason not to act on the bill.

For the most part, Boehner’s conference has followed his lead. Nevada has the second-highest unemployment rate in the country, well above the national average. Rep. Joe Heck, R-Nev., signed a letter to in December along with six other House Republicans calling on Boehner to act on a benefits extension bill. Yet on Tuesday, he said he shares Boehner’s concerns with the Senate’s bill.

“The Senate’s move to do something may have wound up with something that’s not usable,” he said. “We don’t want to pass something just for the sake of passing it if it’s not going to have any impact on those it’s meant to help.”

Similarly, Rep. Peter T. King, R-N.Y., who also signed the December letter, said he supported the idea of extending unemployment insurance, but with the legislation in its current form, he said he “could see why the speaker isn’t going to bring it up as is.”

He said he is not afraid of Democrats using the issue as an election-year bludgeon. “It’s like an issue a week for them I think,” King said.

Meanwhile, potentially electorally vulnerable House Republicans such as Rep. Steve Southerland II, R-Fla., echoed that sentiment, noting that they are feeling little to no pressure in their districts to move the bill.

“I was back in the district last week for 10 days and I did not have one person, in 14 counties, mention that issue to me,” Southerland said.

Freshman Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Ill., who is also facing a competitive re-election fight, said he received no feedback from constituents during the district workweek on extending unemployment insurance unless Davis himself brought up the subject.

But Davis signaled that he would be amenable to passing an unemployment insurance extension provided it includes other provisions, for instance, helping out-of-work Americans get job training.

Rep. Scott Rigell, R-Va., who represents a district that narrowly voted for President Barack Obama in 2012, said he’s not worried either.

Rigell said the offset in the Senate bill — a combination of revenue-raisers, including extending customs user fees — is “deficient,” but that he is still considering the bill.

Adding to the problem is a short House calendar. The House recesses for two weeks staring April 11 and the Senate bill would only extend the benefits through May, though it would cover benefits retroactively to December.

Matt Fuller, Emma Dumain and Humberto Sanchez contributed to this report.

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