Nevada Sen. Dean Heller seeks compromise to extend unemployment benefits

Thu, Apr 3, 2014 (3:21 p.m.)

Dean Heller

Dean Heller

The U.S. Senate today cleared the last procedural hurdle on an extension of unemployment benefits and a Nevada Republican is working to win House support, too.

A final Senate vote is expected Monday evening but that will do little to alleviate concerns that the House may still block the bill.

Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., the bill’s co-author, says he is willing to bend the legislation to win House approval on the five-month extension.

“Get me a meeting with Speaker (John) Boehner and let’s see if we can figure out what would motivate them to move this particular piece of legislation,” Heller said Thursday afternoon. “I think there’s room for compromise.”

Compromise was an elusive goal in the Senate.

For three months, Heller and co-author Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., revised the legislation. They found ways to offset the costs, excluded millionaires and made looking for work a stronger requirement. They eventually brought enough Republicans on board to clear the 60-vote filibuster hurdle. Thursday afternoon’s procedural vote passed, barely, 61 to 35.

Heller has a few ideas to attract House Republican support. Boehner has scoffed at an unemployment bill without a job-creation component. Heller thinks that idea has potential.

“If they wanted to look at some of the issues like the immediate growth in jobs … if they wanted to look at some of the trade agreements,” Heller suggested to reporters Thursday. “I don’t want to get too far outside the scope to something untenable or unworkable. But I’m open to ideas.”

Time is of the essence. The Heller-Reed bill only pays for emergency unemployment benefits until June. That gives the House only a few weeks to mull things over. “There is a very short window,” Reed said.

“We’re going to give them all the leeway they need,” Heller said. “Hopefully with the results of Monday’s vote, there will be some real motivation to get something done.”

While the House is thinking it over, the Senate plans to use the passage of the unemployment bill as a springboard for other middle-class issues.

Next up: A bill on paycheck equality between genders. Then, a minimum wage bill.

But just because Heller was a force behind unemployment benefits doesn’t mean he’ll be on board for all those bills.

“I won’t be voting to proceed (with the minimum wage legislation),” Heller said Thursday. “Let the states decide for themselves.

“In Nevada, because the law says (the minimum wage) has to be a dollar above (the federal rate), we’re not talking about $10.10, we’re talking about $11.10,” he added. “I don’t think any small business wants to see that level of wages at this point.”

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