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On Thursday, a handful of House Democrats wrote a letter to Majority Leader-Elect Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) requesting a meeting to discuss a bipartisan path towards helping the long-term unemployed.
The move appears to be an attempt to end-run House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), who has blocked previous efforts to renew a federal extension of long-term unemployment benefits. Boehner has said repeatedly that he won't support a bill that doesn't include tax incentives and other measures to create jobs.
In a press release, Rep. David N. Cicilline (D-RI) said that unless Congress renews unemployment insurance, more than 5 million Americans will have lost benefits by the end of 2014.
This public push comes after a series of failed attempts to extend emergency unemployment benefits, which expired in December 2013 after Congress failed to renew them. Senate legislation to retroactively reinstate emergence unemployment insurance expired on June 1st.
On Tuesday, Senators Dean Heller (R-NV) and Jack Reed (D-RI) introduced a bill that would extend unemployment insurance for up to five months. Heller spoke with McCarthy shortly after introducing the legislation, only to receive some disappointing news. "His message was very clear," said Heller. "It was very similar to Boehner's—and that is, 'we want job provisions.'"
However, House staffers said the Democrats remain hopeful.
"[The Heller/Reed] legislation would provide prospective benefits. It addresses all of the concerns that Speaker Boehner has laid out," says Josh Drobnyk, Deputy Minority Staff Director at House Ways and Means Committee. "The Senate has acted in a bipartisan way in the past. It's very clear that they would do so again if there was assurance that the House would actually take up the measure."
"We hope he will feel an urgency now that he's in a better position to bring legislation to the floor," says Drobnyk. "The harm just continues to grow across the nation."
—By Reilly Dowd, The Fiscal Times