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News analysis: U.S. Congress gears up for fight over jobless benefits

English.news.cn   2014-01-11 13:38:18            

by Matthew Rusling

WASHINGTON, Jan. 10 (Xinhua) -- U.S. Congress is gearing up for yet another battle, this time over whether to extend jobless benefits for more than a million Americans who remain out of work amid an ongoing U.S. jobs crisis.

"This could become very heated," Christopher Galdieri, assistant professor at Saint Anselm College, told Xinhua, referring to the upcoming debate in Congress.

Democrats said they want to extend jobless benefits to more than a million people who remain unemployed after the worst downturn since the Great Depression, and argued that not providing relief could harm the recovery. Republicans said they also want to help those out of work, but want to take 6 billion U.S. dollars from other government programs to pay for the extension.

The Democrat-controlled Senate passed a three-month extension bill Tuesday, but the legislation has yet to clear the Republican-dominated House before U.S. President Barack Obama signs it into law.

While many House Republicans oppose unemployment benefits on ideological grounds, the political reality is that many Americans remain out of work, Galdieri said.

"If you're a member in a swing district or you're facing a strong challenger, you might be inclined to set aside ideology -- but doing so could invite a primary challenger," he said.

Republican House Speaker John Boehner has said he is only willing to support an extension if it is paid for with cuts or offsets elsewhere in the budget, and for many Democrats that could be unacceptable.

"Extending unemployment insurance while cutting Medicaid, for instance, would be a deal few would be willing to take," Galdieri said.

Meanwhile, the clock is ticking, as jobless benefits for many Americans ran out several weeks ago, which some argue is having a dramatic impact on a number of unemployed individuals.

Experts said that while a compromise between Democrats and the GOP is possible, it remains unknown what it will look like.

"I think the fact that (Wisconsin Republican) Paul Ryan and (Democratic Senator) Patty Murray were able to come to an agreement on a budget framework could be grounds for cautious optimism," Galdieri said, referring to the deal cut by the chairs of the House and Senate Budget Committee in December.

"On the other hand, right now the debate is over a three-month extension. It's entirely possible that the same debate will be taking place in April or May all over again," he said.

Editor: Fu Peng
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