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No Action on Unemployment Extension as Senate Leaves Town

(Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
(Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

None of the long-shot scenarios for additional Senate action on an unemployment extension materialized before the Senate skipped town for another recess Thursday. The Senate will not return until June 2 — more than five months after Congress allowed the benefits to expire. Democrats and President Barack Obama agreed to a budget deal that left the benefits on the cutting room floor shortly before they expired, and have been pushing unsuccessfully ever since to revive them.  

House Republican leaders have no plans to take up the Senate-passed unemployment benefits extension and only a handful of them are calling for restoring the benefits. Obama has yet to make a personal appeal to Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, and is apparently uninterested in the type of hardball horse-trading (video)  it would likely take to resurrect the issue.  

Democrats, unions and administration officials such as Labor Secretary Thomas E. Perez continue to tweet their support for reviving the emergency unemployment benefits, and lawmakers occasionally make speeches on the House and Senate floors, but they have little leverage at this point over Boehner.  

Still, Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., told CQ Roll Call earlier this week that he hasn’t given up , suggesting that a highway bill might be a possible target for an unemployment extension bill and noting that advocates are considering dropping retroactive benefits in a bid to get more Republican support.  

It will likely be months before a highway bill will reach the president’s desk, even if Reed’s longshot bid succeeds. Other bills, like a tax cut bill now ensnared in a dispute over amendments, also aren’t moving quickly. And neither Democrats nor the president have demanded that unemployment be added to the bills that are moving quickly — like a bipartisan job training overhaul announced this week.  

It’s part of a pattern going back to last year. In addition to the budget, Obama signed an omnibus spending bill, a farm bill, and is about to sign a water bill all without unemployment benefits attached.  

In the meantime the number of long-term unemployed who have been cut off since the expiration of the Emergency Unemployment Compensation program is nearing 3 million.

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