Should Congress Renew Unemployment Benefits?

Senate leaders have reached a deal, but the speaker seems uninterested.

House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, joined by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Va., right, meets with reporters following a Republican caucus on Capitol Hill in Washington.

House Speaker John Boeher didn't seem too confident about a bipartisan deal on unemployment benefits.

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A Senate deal to restore emergency unemployment insurance may be in jeopardy in the House, as Speaker John Boehner seemed hesitant when asked about the agreement on Friday. Responding to an Associated Press reporter’s question about the plan, Boehner said, “You mean the one that can’t be implemented?” According to an aide, the speaker doesn’t find workable a provision of the deal that makes jobless benefits retroactive to the program’s expiration late last year.

The deal reached this week was the culmination of a tense struggle between Democrats and Republicans. Democrats, backed by the president, have accused Republicans of ignoring the needs of millions of struggling Americans, while Republicans have said the deal lacks appropriate job creation provisions. The Democratic-controlled Senate, though, now seems likely to approve the deal in late March. After reaching a compromise on the bill, Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., said Friday, “We’re not at the finish line yet, but this is a bipartisan breakthrough.”

[See a collection of political cartoons on the economy.]

The deal reauthorizes emergency unemployment benefits for five months, retroactive to December. More than 1 million people initially lost their benefits when emergency unemployment coverage expired in December. Now, more than 2 million people have used up state unemployment coverage and are not receiving federal emergency benefits.

In U.S. News, economist Chad Stone wrote about the benefits of the federal unemployment insurance program:

Emergency jobless benefits keep many long-term unemployed looking for work rather than dropping out of the labor force. They generate additional consumer spending that supports the recovery. And, as a an emergency program that ends when the emergency passes, emergency unemployment does not compromise future deficit reduction efforts ... Restoring emergency unemployment compensation is good policy. With a bipartisan deal in the Senate that includes budgetary offsets to keep it from adding to the deficit, only House Republican intransigence can keep it from becoming law.

What do you think? Should Congress restore emergency unemployment benefits? Vote and comment below.

Should Congress Renew Unemployment Benefits?

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