Republican senator pushes John Boehner to pass unemployment bill


One Senate Republican is finding that even his pleas to the House to take up an extension of unemployment insurance benefits is falling on deaf ears.

Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., who was one of the architects of the bipartisan compromise to retroactively pay emergency unemployment benefits that expired on Dec. 28 and extend the program through the end of May, pleaded his case with House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, on Tuesday. Boehner has insisted that any legislation must both be paid for and include ways to promote job growth (although he opposes the bill for other reasons too, arguing it cannot be implemented).

According to the Las Vegas Sun, Heller spoke with Boehner by phone Tuesday and asked him to bring the bill up for a vote in the House.

"He encouraged the Speaker to allow the unemployment insurance extension legislation to move forward in the House, making the case that this bill is not just important for Nevada, but for the entire country," Heller's communications director, Chandler Smith, told the Sun.

Although the bill does not enjoy widespread Republican support, seven Republicans have signed onto a letter to Boehner requesting the same. On the House side, Democrats are filing a "discharge petition," which would force the Republican leadership to put their version of an unemployment benefits extension up for a vote if a majority of House members sign on. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Wednesday there were more than 100 House Democrats who were immediately signing the petition, but it's unlikely to get enough Republican support to make it to the floor.

But Boehner is sticking to his guns and won't consider the legislation because it doesn't include separate job-creation measures. Senate Republicanstried to add a series of measures in a catch-all amendment to the bill they say would boost job growth, like approving the Keystone XL pipeline, reducing taxes on small businesses, and eliminating the 30-hour workweek rule in Obamacare. But it was dropped from consideration because there was enough Republican support for the bill to overcome a potential filibuster.

For now, it seems unlikely that the situation will change. The House Republicans' spring agenda, laid out in a memo circulated by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., last week, includes legislation dealing with charter schools, human trafficking and small tax measures - not unemployment.

  • Rebecca Kaplan

    Rebecca Kaplan is a political reporter for