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GOP Leaders Oppose Unemployment Bill

Though some in their party are likely to vote otherwise, House Minority Whip Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) and Republican Conference Chairman Adam Putnam (Fla.) pledged to vote against an unemployment benefit extension bill set for Wednesday’s suspension calendar.

The problem with the benefit extension is that it is “available whether your state has a real unemployment problem or not,” Blunt said. For example, South Dakota has a 2.6 percent unemployment rate, which is well below the 5.5 percent national rate, he said.

Also of concern is that “we’re not setting any kind of national standard where you have to work” to qualify for unemployment benefits, Blunt said. “It is just not a reasonable thing to do” to ask taxpayers to support 26 weeks of unemployment benefits for someone who may have worked two weeks.

Putnam said he would oppose the bill because there is already “a proven model in place” for extending unemployment benefits to those in need.

While at least some Republicans are expected to support the measure given the pressure over the sagging economy, Blunt said he hoped enough would oppose it so GOP Members could hand President Bush “a veto-sustaining number. The Senate said they couldn’t do it on their own.”

It is a moot point for the House to pass the bill anyway since “the Senate says it can’t pass [unemployment insurance] as a broken-out item,” added Blunt, referring to similar language that may or may not end up in the war supplemental.

That means lawmakers are either “headed toward a veto again” or will delay passage of an unemployment extension until after the July Fourth recess, the Republican Whip said.

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