Washington — U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee of Flint Township led a group of fellow freshman Democrats Thursday in calling for an immediate vote on extending emergency unemployment benefits.
Kidlee wrote the letter signed by 49 freshmen that urges GOP House Speaker John Boehner to schedule a vote on extending the long-term benefits that expired Dec. 28 for about 44,000 Michiganians and 1.3 million Americans.
Kildee acknowledges the effort faces an uphill battle. The Democratic-led Senate is taking up the extension this week but faces a strong contingent of GOP resistance there. Even if the measure clears the Senate, Kildee said he realizes it will be difficult to convince House leadership to bring the measure to vote.
“This is going to be tough obviously,” Kildee said Thursday.
“The hope is ... this issue can get past the hyper partisanship and enough of the reasonable Republicans will realize that they’ve got problems back home with lots of unemployed.”
Many Republicans, led by Boehner, said they won’t consider an unemployment extension without budget cuts elsewhere to pay for restoring the program and provisions they believe will prompt job creation. Boehner has suggested approving the Keystone XL oil pipeline and delaying certain provisions of the Affordable Care Act of 2010.
Democrats counter the Emergency Unemployment Compensation program spending traditionally has not been offset because it’s temporary emergency spending during rough economic times.
The three-month extension of benefits is slated to add $6.5 billion to the deficit while a one-year extension would cost about $25 billion. Kildee said Thursday he’s against cutting other programs that would hurt low-income families to pay for unemployment benefits. But he said he is open to accompanying budget offsets that would close tax loopholes for offshore tax havens.
“We’ll have a conversation about that,” Kildee said. “But the idea that we should take away the child tax credit to pay for unemployment compensation ought to be offensive.”
In Michigan, with the third-highest unemployment rate in the nation, state benefits run for 20 weeks. The federally funded benefits provide up to an additional 37 weeks when the jobless exhaust state benefits.