Van Hollen: Senate Should Pressure Boehner On Unemployment Insurance

The top Democrat on the House Budget Committee on Friday said an extension of emergency unemployment benefits would gain momentum in the Republican-led chamber if the proposal were to pass the Senate.

“I hope 2014 will be a better year in Congress than 2013, which was certainly, in the House of Representatives, a black hole,” Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) said during an appearance on MSNBC. “Look, if the Senate can get this passed in the Senate, and Harry Reid has made this priority number one, that will create some momentum in the House. And Speaker Boehner, I think, will be under more pressure to do something.”

Senate Democratic leaders plan on holding a procedural vote early next
week to extend unemployment benefits. Success is uncertain as Democrats
will need 60 votes to advance any proposal.

Emergency unemployment benefits, which first passed in 2008 when the economy was in free-fall, expired for some 1.3 million Americans on Dec. 28. Democrats are pushing to renew it. Republicans want to end the program, but Boehner has said he’d listen to ideas by Democrats if they propose offsets. He isn’t supporting their plan to pay for it by cutting agriculture subsidies.

Van Hollen also predicted that a minimum wage hike would pass the House if Boehner — who opposes an increase — would allow it to come to a vote.

“I think if the Speaker of the House will make his new year’s resolution allowing democracy to work its will in the House, then we can get things like a minimum wage increase passed,” he said. “Because I’m confident that we have a majority of votes in the House to do it. We have virtually every Democrat, if not every Democrat, and I’m confident we would be able to pick up enough Republicans in the House to get to the 218 majority.”