Senate Passes Unemployment Insurance Extension, But House Unlikely To Follow Suit

On Monday, a deal to extend unemployment benefits passed the Senate, with six Republicans joining Democrats to approve the extension. That’s encouraging news, given that the legislation looked dead as recently as a month ago. However, it’s probably not going to become law, as House Speaker John Boehner indicated shortly after the bill’s passage that he won’t be putting it up for a vote in the lower chamber.

“As the Speaker said months ago, we are willing to look at extending emergency unemployment insurance as long as it includes provisions to help create more private-sector jobs – but, last week, Senate Democratic leaders ruled out adding any jobs measures at all,” said Boehner’s spokesman, Michael Steel. “The American people are still asking, ‘where are the jobs?’ and House Republicans are focused on our jobs agenda for families and small businesses.”

While that’s not a direct refusal, it certainly suggests that the Senate bill is dead in the water in the GOP-controlled House. But a number of House Republicans want to vote on the bill, and several sent a letter to Boehner shortly after the Senate bill passed requesting that he put it up for a vote.

“As many Americans continue to struggle without benefits, we respectfully request that the House immediately consider this bill or a similar measure to restore unemployment benefits to struggling Americans,” said the letter, which was signed by seven House Republicans.

However, that seems unlikely. An internal House Republican memo leaked in January, in which GOP leadership instructed its members on how to argue against unemployment insurance and persuade constituents that it’s really not all that important after all. If the party leadership opposes the extension this vehemently, it's very unlikely that Boehner will ever put it up for a vote. Nevertheless, Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer insisted before the Senate vote that “if our bill was put up for a vote in the House, there is no question it would pass.”

In December, over one million Americans had their unemployment benefits expire thanks to the GOP's refusal to help Democrats pass an extension. Since then, around 73,000 jobless Americans have had their benefits expire every week.