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Nearly three months after federal unemployment benefits expired for over a million Americans nationwide, House Speaker John Boehner’s excuse for refusing to take up a bill to renew the federal Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC) program is falling apart.

When Senate Democrats and five Republicans struck a deal that would reauthorize the EUC program for five months and retroactively pay the benefits that expired on December 28, Speaker Boehner immediately dismissed the bill.

Citing a letter from the National Association of State Workforce Agencies (NASWA) — the state agencies that distribute the unemployment checks — Boehner argued that extending unemployment benefits would be too “difficult” and “unworkable,” due to the complications involved in ensuring that beneficiaries were actually looking for work during the proceeding three months.

Abandoning the House’s continuous claims that an extension would hinder job creation and dissuade long-term unemployed Americans from seeking employment, the Speaker argued that “the Senate bill would be costly, difficult to administer, and difficult to determine an individual’s eligibility.”

The bottom line, according to Boehner:  “This could increase the likelihood of fraud and abuse.”

NASWA president Mark Henry, however, is now clarifying that the organization does not endorse a particular position on whether or not the bill should proceed. As Politico reports, Henry says that some in Washington had “conflated” the concerns mentioned in NASWA’s letter.

“The letter that I wrote did not label the legislation ‘unworkable’; that was Speaker Boehner’s word,” Henry said, distancing himself from the Speaker’s stance.

Also, as The New York Times points out, state agencies managed to overcome that same “difficulty” back in 2010, when benefits were renewed after a lapse.

Even others in the GOP are not buying Boehner’s excuse, which seeks to appease House Republicans, who, for the most part, oppose an extension of the EUC program.

According to Politico, Senator Rob Portman, a powerful Republican also from Ohio, shot back at Boehner, saying he understands the “concern” over implementation, “but it’s been done before.”

“We’re eager to hear [the House’s] ideas as to how it could be implemented more effectively,” he added.

Portman was not alone in speaking out against the House’s opposition to the program’s renewal.

“There’s a lot of things that the Speaker doesn’t like that we do over here,” says Republican senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska. “What we have out there is a fair proposal.”

Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL) also spoke out, describing the deal as a “good compromise that takes care of people who are running out of their checks and does it in a way that is paid for appropriately.”

Photo: Gage Skidmore via Flickr

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Danziger Draws

Jeff Danziger lives in New York City. He is represented by CWS Syndicate and the Washington Post Writers Group. He is the recipient of the Herblock Prize and the Thomas Nast (Landau) Prize. He served in the US Army in Vietnam and was awarded the Bronze Star and the Air Medal. He has published eleven books of cartoons, a novel and a memoir. Visit him at DanzigerCartoons.

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