Last week, Speaker Boehner said the bipartisan unemployment bill in the Senate would not be able to pass the House. Like many Hot Air readers, I was unconvinced:
Unfortunately, Boehner’s resistance may not be enough, if the Senate passes the bill. In an election year, with the word “compromise” being thrown around because Democrats are “only” applying the benefits until May, and Republicans already being viewed as the party of the rich, short-term political survival may win the day.
However, now Boehner is increasing his resistance, saying he has evidence that the Senate’s bill would be structurally unworkable:
But House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, has said the bill has no chance in his chamber in the wake of a letter he received from National Association of State Work Force Agencies, which says the requirements of the Senate bill would, “cause considerable delays in the implementation of the program and increased administrative issues and costs.”
As a result, the letter says, some states have indicated the changes to the program are not feasible so they will not work with the Labor Department to implement the program.
The association says implementation could take one to three months, and cite chief obstacles such as aging computer systems, how states should pay for the administrative burden of determining eligibility for the program, implementing the means testing necessary to weed out wealthier recipients of aid, and quickly clearing a backlog of claims to late December, when the program expired.
Timothy Noah of MSNBC noticed something odd about these complaints:
Boehner says he won’t support extending unemployment insurance because – get this – he’s hearing from state officials that the “reforms” are too difficult and expensive to implement. The changes that Boehner’s own party asked for as a condition of their support have made the bill “simply unworkable.” Indeed, he says, these “reforms” would actually result in more fraud and abuse, not less.
So let’s jettison the “reforms” and pass a clean extension bill, right?
Nope. Because…unemployment benefits need to be reformed.
Noah was being sarcastic about reforming unemployment benefits — abrasively so, if you read the entire piece — but he raises a good point. Eligibility, means-testing, and the backlog were all caused by Republican stubbornness on employment benefits. And while this would normally be public relations disaster for Republicans, Boehner has turned it into a three-part victory.
Consider: Whether on purpose or by accident, whether in cahoots with his Republican brethren in the Senate or not, Boehner has managed to undercut the compromise deal in the Senate while looking entirely reasonable. And right after doing that, he urged the Senate to pass the House’s jobs bills.
In an election year, many Republicans want to simply maintain the status quo to get past November. However, many conservatives want good policy implemented. By pulling the rug out from under Senate Democrats in this way, it looks like Boehner has managed to please both camps in one fell sweep: stopping higher spending and higher taxes, promoting legislation that would enhance job growth, and doing so in a politically savvy fashion.
Well played, Speaker Boehner. Well played.