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GOP Hopes to Blame Dems for Expiration of Unemployment Benefits

From the department of irony comes this Roll Call story indicating that Senate Republicans — whose objections to a one-month extension of the filing deadline for unemployment benefits will affect hundreds of thousands of jobless folks next week — are hoping to blame Democrats for their inability to pass the extension bill.

A GOP leadership aide said that while “unemployment and welfare have traditionally been Democratic issues,” Republicans believe the inability of Democrats to pass an extension last week can play to their favor.

To understand how requires a closer look at what happened on the Senate floor last week. The House last month passed a bill extending the UI filing deadline (not to be confused with the creation of additional UI benefits) through April. The Senate was hoping to pass the same measure unanimously, but Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) objected, insisting that the $9.2 billion cost be offset with unspent stimulus funds.

Coburn’s objection left Democratic leaders scrambling in search of a way to push the deadline in the short window they had left before the spring recess. With GOP leaders, they agreed on a one-week UI extension, meaning the deadline would arrive on the same day that Congress is scheduled to return to Washington from their two-week break. But House Democrats rejected that strategy, leaving Senate leaders with no choice but to adjourn without addressing the issue. (A cloture vote on the extension is scheduled for April 12).

So it’s the House Democrats’ rejection of the one-week extension — not Coburn’s rejection of the one-week extension — that Republicans hope to focus on during the recess.

McConnell’s office has provided GOP lawmakers with talking points emphasizing the fact that House Democrats killed a one-week, fully paid-for extension of the unemployment program, and that almost the entire Democratic Conference voted to adjourn for the spring recess while Senate Republicans all voted to stay in session. Although the GOP may not make a major push, lawmakers over the next several days are expected to make their case in local and regional media markets. “Locally … where these stories make the most difference, Senators are armed with the facts,” the GOP leadership aide said.

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