Updated 7:36 a.m. April 19 | Top Senate backers of an unemployment extension say there’s still hope for a deal and are working to set up a meeting with Speaker John A. Boehner.
“Our staffs are talking with the speaker’s staff,” Sen. Dean Heller said Friday.
Heller — the Nevada Republican co-author of the bipartisan Senate bill — and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., spoke about unemployment benefits during a joint appearance Friday on KSNV, Las Vegas’ NBC affiliate.
“We will put together a meeting,” Heller said. “We couldn’t get it done before the break.”
The junior Nevada senator reiterated the possibility of compromise, referring to comments made earlier this month by House Rules Chairman Pete Sessions, R-Texas, who talked about tying the extension of unemployment insurance benefits to jobs measures and the extension of some tax breaks.
The bill is important to Nevada, which has the second-highest unemployment rate in the nation.
“The UI extension is important for citizens here in the state of Nevada,” Heller said. “Keep in mind these are people that work hard, that are looking for work, that have lost their job, it’s not their fault.”
Upon hearing Heller’s comments about setting up a meeting with Boehner, Reid praised the speaker and said that despite differences Congress has not been without its accomplishments this year, including raising the debt ceiling and passing an omnibus appropriations bill.
He also said that whenever they meet, they always meet in Boehner’s office, so the speaker can smoke.
“Let me say one thing that I think might be interesting to your viewing audience,” Reid said. “We kick around John Boehner often, but I have a wonderful relationship with him. He’s the nicest guy.”
“And every meeting that I have with him takes place in his office,” Reid continued. “You know [the] protocol is you go back and forth. But we decided to do it that way because John Boehner smokes, and he smokes a lot. I don’t want him smoking in my office, so every meeting we’ve had has been in his office. And usually he smokes a cigarette about every ten minutes. I am glad he is able to smoke, it keeps him pacified and we have been able actually to get some things worked out.”
The Senate bill has been criticized by Boehner, R-Ohio, as unworkable over concerns regarding implementation, and for failing to add additional jobs measures. Backers have cited, however, CBO estimates showing it would add jobs and a letter from Labor Secretary Thomas E. Perez assuring it can be implemented.