Republican House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) on Wednesday voiced his concern for the current unemployment insurance legislation, renouncing any support for the bill yet to pass in the Democratically-controlled Senate. Over the past two months the bill has failed to procure enough bi-partisan backing in order for a solid deal to be reached. Amidst strong rhetoric from both sides, five Republicans and five Democrats had introduced a bill last Thursday which sought to bring about an agreement between the two parties and reinstate insurance checks for the long-term unemployed. If passed, the agreement would potentially fulfill the pay-out of benefits halted Dec. 29 of last year.
However, the endorsement of the Republican-led House seems to be almost non-existent. Boehner explained his distaste for the unemployment insurance legislation, claiming that it was not up to the standards for the House and that it would not be capable of creating jobs. His comments were a follow-up from a recent letter addressed to the Senate’s Majority Leader Harry Reid. The National Association of State Workforce Agencies, a nonprofit group of proponents for state labor departments, drafted the letter to Congress in order to explain the difficulties the current bill would pose.
Since the proposed bill would only restore benefits until June, the state directors feel that this would not provide them with ample time to adjust to the provisions of the new law. They also believe some states would refrain from signing the U.S. Labor Department’s agreement to comply with the plan. Another impractical measure, according to Boehner and the NASWA, would be to verify whether those receiving benefits had actually been looking for work over the previous few months. Unemployment insurance checks usually go to those that have reported each week on their job-search to the corresponding department of state labor. On average, the recipients of those benefits collect $300 a week. Many states have halted the sending out of unemployment checks since January.
With the dispatching of their letter the state directors were not attempting to take political sides. Though they did respond to what they considered to be the unworkable provisions of the bill, another of those being the issue with the prohibiting of millionaires from accepting unemployment insurance. A Federal estimate found that 0.03 percent of unemployment beneficiaries had a gross income of over $1 million for the previous year. The new unemployment legislation would ban millionaires from receiving unemployment benefits. NAWSA says this piece of the law would be retroactive for certain 25 year old computer systems.
In addition, unemployment agencies do not compile income tax information and thus they say it would not be feasible for them to adapt to what would be required of their departments. In order to regulate those who legally qualified for benefits, states would need additional Federal money that had not been allocated in the bill.
Boehner renounced the unemployment insurance bill currently eking its way through the Senate due to what he and the NASWA consider to be the unproductive and inaccessible provisions of the law. Although the CBO reportedly stated that the re-authorization of unemployment benefits would add hundreds of thousands of jobs to the economy, the House Speaker acted with a pithy defiance, claiming that his chamber had plenty of other jobs-bills waiting to be passed.
The current impasse for the re-issuing of federal unemployment insurance to the long-term unemployed stands at 79 days.
By Bryan William Myers