U.S. House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) playfully pumps his fist in response to a reporter's question as he arrives at the U.S. Capitol in Washington September 28, 2013. The U.S. government edged closer to a shutdown Saturday as Republicans in the House of attribution: REUTERS

In a typical Republican move, House Speaker John Boehner is pointing to weaknesses in the Senate’s bipartisan proposal to extend emergency unemployment aid for five months as a reason to kill the plan rather than strengthen it. Three of the five months the Senate deal covers would be retroactive, making it difficult to implement, according to the National Association of State Workforce Agencies. That’s because, with the bulk of the new benefits retroactive, some state labor agencies wouldn’t have the time they need to fully ramp up their systems. A Republican component of the deal, denying unemployment insurance to people whose income in the previous year was $1 million or more, would be a particular problem:

"The ‘millionaire provision’ would be very hard to administer," the association said. "The UI system is not means-tested and therefore does not collect information on an individual’s adjusted gross income. Screening individuals by reported quarterly UI covered wages, rather than income tax information, would be a more feasible approach."

But again, John Boehner isn’t looking to fix any of this, or to help the millions of people unemployed for six months or more in an economy without enough jobs to go around. Boehner would prefer that the Senate pass "the dozens of House-passed jobs bills still awaiting action," which means, in translation, House-passed bills giving away the farm to big business and weakening workplace and consumer protections without actually creating jobs. His interest in unemployment aid is only as a foil to these so-called jobs bills, and he’s certainly not admitting that unemployment aid is itself a job creator.

The Senate should fix its unemployment deal. Make it longer. Adjust the millionaire provision so that it’s actually doable. (Or drop it entirely.) And then use it as a cudgel against the House Republicans’ refusal to do what should have been done months ago and extend unemployment aid.


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