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Will Obama Call Boehner on Unemployment Extension?

Obama hasn't picked up the phone to call Boehner to negotiate an unemployment extension. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
Obama hasn't picked up the phone to call Boehner to negotiate an unemployment extension. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Will President Barack Obama pick up his vaunted phone and call Speaker John A. Boehner to try and cut a deal on an unemployment extension?  

Obama and his lobbying arm, Organizing for Action, have urged supporters to call members of Congress and ask them to pass an unemployment extension, but so far he doesn’t appear to have taken his own advice.  

Last week, Labor Secretary Thomas E. Perez sent Boehner a letter offering to meet and negotiate an unemployment extension , but nothing appears to have come of that, either.  

A GOP House leadership aide dismissed the letter in an email. “Secretary Perez’ ‘offer’ was basically, ‘Hey, enact the whole White House domestic agenda – including UI, comprehensive immigration, and the President’s version of tax reform – and we’ll call it a “deal” – OK?’  It was completely unserious. Boehner has been clear since before Christmas about what we would need to see from the White House — and they are just not acting.”  

Boehner, R-Ohio, repeatedly
has demanded that the president come to him with a new jobs offer before he’ll consider allowing a vote on an extension of emergency unemployment benefits, which expired in December.  

It’d be harder to blow off a call from the president, of course, than Perez. Even Vladimir Putin still takes Obama’s calls.  

Presidential involvement — and an offer to maybe accept something, anything on the House GOP’s wish list — might be the only thing that gets this bill moving, with an effort to attach an extension to a tax cut bill falling apart in the Senate .  

The White House last week threatened to veto a House corporate tax cut bill, citing its impact on the deficit, while noting that the Senate-passed unemployment extension bill was paid for and cost a much smaller amount of money.  

But the administration has not played true hardball on an unemployment extension. Obama hasn’t made his signature on any budget-related item or GOP priority contingent on passage of emergency unemployment benefits.  

Obama signed a two-year budget law late last year that did not include the unemployment extension; he signed a farm bill; he signed a one-year extension for doctors whose reimbursements would have been slashed under Medicare, and he signed an omnibus appropriations bill.  

The clock meanwhile is running on the Senate-passed five-month unemployment extension. The retroactive bill would run out in June.  

Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., told CQ Roll Call Wednesday that supporters of an unemployment extension would have to head “back to the drawing board” with no action in the House, and the Senate unlikely to add it to an unpaid-for package of tax breaks.  

Obama, for his part, isn’t threatening to veto the Senate’s tax cut bill — either over it blowing a hole in the budget or for not including an unemployment extension.

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