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House Republicans say they feel little political pressure to pass a bipartisan unemployment benefits extension expected to pass the Senate in the coming days, bolstering Speaker John A. Boehner’s hand as he holds out for concessions from Democrats and the White House.
Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., who helped negotiate the bipartisan Senate agreement, said once the his chamber clears the bill, he plans to reach out to House Republican leaders.
“I knew that [House Republicans] would have some issues with it,” Heller said. “It sounds like they want to get something done, in general terms. ... Whether it looks like what the Senate passes or not, that is for them to decide.”
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said he plans to bring up the bipartisan benefits extension bill soon, although a final vote could slip into next week.
House Democrats say they will keep pushing once the Senate passes the bill, a Democratic aide said. They plan to work with outside groups to target vulnerable Republican House members in hopes that they will convince Boehner to take up the bill, if only for their political benefit.
“It’s been tough to put pressure on House Republicans while the Senate is still negotiating an agreement,” the aide said. “Once that passes, it’ll be a lot easier to turn up the pressure.”
The problem, however, is that there may not be enough politically vulnerable Republican members who are feeling significant electoral pressure in their districts. Many Republicans simply do not believe long-term unemployment insurance benefits should be extended, and others aren’t convinced the Senate package is the way to go.
“It will encourage unemployment,” said GOP Rep. Devin Nunes of California, which has one of the highest unemployment rates in the country. “We see the need to have unemployment [benefits], no question. But to extend this ... I just don’t see how we have the votes.”
So far, Boehner has been cool to the Senate’s proposal. The Ohio Republican told reporters on Tuesday that he would rather see the Senate take up House-passed proposals he believes would create jobs, and cited concerns from the National Association of State Workforce Agencies that the Senate bill would be difficult to implement.
“Let’s just wait and see what happens here,” Boehner said of Senate action. “I’ve made clear what I thought was necessary for us to pass it, those criteria have not been met and those criteria have not changed.”