When Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., begins pushing for the Democratic agenda that includes an extension of emergency employment benefits and an increase in the minimum wage, he won’t get much help from House Republicans.
On CBS’ “Face the Nation,” Two GOP lawmakers, Reps. Matt Salmon of Arizona and Peter King of New York, said Reid and Democrats will have to consider some Republican ideas if they want to get anything done.
Take an extension of emergency unemployment benefits, which expired on Dec. 28. It would cost billions to extend the program for a year, and many Republicans say they won’t do it without a way to pay for the extension up front.
“If the Senator comes up with any kind of a reasonable idea to offset the $26 billion, I think that he might find some people that are willing to talk to him,” Salmon said. But he added that Congress should be dealing with the root cause of unemployment by passing one of the many jobs bills the Republican-controlled House has sent to the Senate, including approving the Keystone XL oil pipeline.
Salmon was echoing House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, who has said it is incumbent on President Obama to come up with a way to pay for the extension of benefits if he wants the GOP to consider it.
King didn’t agree with Salmon that every dollar of a benefits extension would need to be offset, but he did say that “there has to be some compromise coming from the Democrats.”
“I would like to find a way to get a compromise, to extend unemployment insurance at least for a brief period of time. But at the same time, the Democrats should make compromises as far as burdensome regulations and attempt to unleash the economy. Because the ultimate answer is not unemployment insurance. The ultimate answer is more jobs,” he said.
During an earlier appearance on “Face the Nation,” Reid blamed Congressional Republicans for failing to extend benefits and said they were at odds with Republicans around the country, who support such an extension.
“The vast majority of the American people believe that unemployment benefits should be extended,” Reid said.
Salmon said Reid’s finger-pointing was little more than partisan politics. “Senator Reid spent his entire time just blaming Republicans for everything, every calamity in the world, and not really offering any solutions. I think that's why the American people think that the Congress is so dysfunctional, because it's just partisan politics,” he said.
Salmon said he won’t be backing any of Reid’s initiatives like raising the minimum wage. That kind of policy, he said, “hurts the very people we’re trying to help.”
“The people that are mostly on minimum wage are the folks that are 18 to 28. And those folks right now have the highest unemployment rate in the country, by far, not even close. And history has shown us that when the minimum wage rises, those companies that are paying minimum wage jobs end up laying people off. And they end up hiring less people,” Salmon said.
On the minimum wage, King again took a slightly different tack than Salmon and said he would consider an increase in the minimum wage, as he has in the past – as long as there were some concessions from Democrats.
“It has to be coinciding with a cutting back on some of the burdens that are on employers. Because otherwise as Matt was saying, we could increase minimum wage, but it would mean more people being laid off,” he said. “If we can get to compromise, we can get these on the table where the Democrats are willing to give up some of these restrictions and burdens that are on businesses that I'd be willing to consider somewhat of an increase in the minimum wage.”