U.S. House Republican leaders continue to make themselves easy targets for ridicule on issues that should have bipartisan support. Last year, they nearly derailed the re-authorization of the Violence Against Women Act. For months, they have refused to consider comprehensive immigration reform. And now, they appear ready to deny unemployment benefits to more than two million Americans in desperate need of help as they continue to seek jobs.
Speaker John Boehner and his lieutenants, including U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Spokane, are in no rush to provide temporary assistance to those trying to re-enter the work force. Meanwhile, struggling job-seekers such as Calvin Graedel of West Seattle find themselves spending their life savings and selling their homes to make ends meet.
Watch Graedel share his story in the video below, which was shot last month. (View the editorial board’s page featuring previous editorials, more videos, reader views and resources.)
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On Tuesday, the U.S. Senate passed a bill to extend emergency unemployment insurance benefits. All Democrats and six Republicans signed on. But according to The Huffington Post, the bill’s future in the House is bleak.
The Congressional Budget Office has said repeatedly that emergency unemployment benefits boost jobs because claimants plow their benefits directly into necessities such as food and shelter. Nevertheless, Boehner and other House Republicans would rather see jobs come from business-friendly Republican-sponsored measures.
The Seattle Times published an editorial on April 3 encouraging Washington’s congressional delegates to nudge their caucus leaders toward a vote. Though every Democratic member supports extending unemployment insurance, not one of the state’s four Republican representatives has joined them.
On April 3, Roll Call reported that seven brave Republican congressional members from other states were finally speaking up.
Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio and other House leaders portrayed the extension as unworkable after a three-month break in such benefits, and they are arguing for GOP alternatives to spur growth and job creation. But Rep. Peter T. King of New York said Thursday he and Rep. Frank A. LoBiondo of New Jersey had sent a letter urging Boehner and his team to move the Senate proposal (HR 3979) or an alternative.
“We want it extended,” King said. “We respectfully request that the House immediately consider this bill or a similar measure to restore unemployment benefits to struggling Americans,” the letter said.
McMorris Rodgers, leader of the caucus, is quoted in the story as saying, “There will be a conversation. We’re waiting to see what the Senate actually passes.”
Well, the Senate acted. Your move, Congresswoman. Nearly 28,000 residents of Washington were cut off from federal unemployment benefits when the program expired in December. Since then, the state reports another 15,000 or so people have been affected. They need help now.