An emergency unemployment insurance extension is on track to be passed in the Senate this week, but despite bipartisan Senate support and widespread popularity among voters, its fate in the House remains uncertain. Speaker John Boehner, who will make the decision on whether the bill even gets a vote in the House, claims to oppose it because state workforce agencies say it could be difficult to implement a five-month extension in the narrow window of time allowed (but let's be serious—Boehner simply opposes extending jobless aid).
The Senate has made an addition to the bill that might give Boehner pause, though. The Senate's unemployment language was attached to a House-passed bill, which was originally stripped of its House language:
The legislation is aimed at ensuring that volunteer firefighters and emergency services workers do not have to be offered health insurance under ObamaCare. Supporters say requiring insurance for these volunteers would create financial hardships that could threaten the provision of emergency services.That will leave Boehner in the position of blocking not only a popular, bipartisan, economically important measure—unemployment insurance—but also an Obamacare tweak he actually does want passed.
Democrats in the Senate stripped H.R. 3979 of this ObamaCare language to use the bill as a shell to carry the unemployment deal. But on Monday, a bipartisan group of senators that includes Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) introduced a substitute amendment that tacks the ObamaCare proposal onto the end of the unemployment bill.
The stakes are huge: Around 2 million people who've been unemployed for six months or more are currently without unemployment insurance they need and should have. These people face serious discrimination in an economy that already doesn't have enough jobs to go around. On top of that, unemployment aid provides strong economic stimulus, which our economy badly needs. House Republicans claim job creation measures are one of the things they're holding out for in exchange for a vote on jobless aid—but stimulating the economy is a job-creation measure in itself, even if it's not the preferred Republican tactic of tax cuts for businesses. Once the Senate has passed this bill, Boehner and House Republicans need to face the kind of pressure they can't ignore.