House Republicans want to let unemployment benefits lapse

Despite an ongoing employment crisis, Republicans say there's no "appetite" to extend unemployment insurance

Published December 4, 2013 3:20PM (EST)

Paul Ryan                                        (Reuters/Kevin Lamarque)
Paul Ryan (Reuters/Kevin Lamarque)

Despite an official unemployment rate still lingering around 7 percent, House Republicans have indicated that they will not support an extension of unemployment benefits, which are scheduled to expire on December 31 of this year.

“I don’t see much appetite from our side for an extension of benefits. I just don’t,” said Rep. Tom Cole, a high-ranking GOP House member and close confidante of Speaker John Boehner.

"These have been extraordinary extensions, and the Republican position all along has been 'we need to go back to normal here at some point,'" Cole continued.

House Democrats are pushing for federal unemployment benefits — which since 2008 have been picking up the slack where state-level insurance drops off — to be extended as part of the ongoing budget negotiations. But with talks focusing on relieving the pain of the sequester, there's doubt as to whether these benefits will survive past the end of the year.

More from the Associated Press at the Huffington Post:

The additional weeks of benefits have been extended each year since 2009, sometimes after bitter battles over whether they should be "paid for" with spending cuts elsewhere in the budget. They have usually been part of larger packages extending tax cuts, which has made it easier for Republicans to support. That's not the case now, however, because most Bush-era tax cuts were permanently extended in January.

Democrats are pressing to make the jobless aid part of Congress' year-end agenda and hope to include it in a budget pact that House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and Senate Budget Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray, D-Wash., are trying to assemble.

The Congressional Budget Office said Tuesday that the Democratic legislation to extend federal benefits to people who have exhausted their state benefits would cost $25 billion but stimulate the economy by 0.2 percent next year and create 200,000 jobs.

Long-term unemployment aid once added up to 73 weeks in federal benefits to the 26 weeks of state benefits for a maximum of 99 weeks. Now, 73 weeks is the maximum allowed from both sources combined, with 54 weeks being the nationwide average.

By Elias Isquith

Elias Isquith is a former Salon staff writer.

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