January 24, 2014, 06:00 am
Democrats renew push for jobless benefits
By Alexander Bolton
Democrats will hold a national conference call Friday to highlight that the number of people who have lost unemployment benefits has reached 1.6 million.
Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) and Reps. Xavier Becerra (D-Calif.), Rob Andrews (D-N.J.) and Joe Garcia (D-Fla.) will lead the call, which caps a week of efforts targeted at Senate Republicans.
House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) has urged colleagues to hold events in their districts Friday to build grassroots support for an extension of benefits that has stalled in the Senate.
“While House Republicans have ignored their plight by recessing without addressing this emergency, we think it’s important that House Democrats take action to amplify this critical issue,” her office wrote in a memo to colleagues.
Pelosi has encouraged lawmakers to hold press conferences, visit local employment centers and meet with local groups advocating for renewed benefits.
Also on Friday, labor groups pushing for extended benefits will hold an event in Nevada to pressure Sen. Dean Heller (Nev.), the Republican sponsor of a Senate proposal to renew lapsed unemployment assistance.
An organizer working on the national effort described the event targeted at Heller as “positive pressure”.
Some Republicans think it’s odd that liberal groups and labor unions would target Heller after he teamed up with Reed and other Democrats to co-sponsor an extension of benefits.
Democrats are disappointed Heller has not brought more Republicans with him. He was the only Republican to vote to end a filibuster and set up a final vote on the benefits package.
“I'm going to keep working on it. I assure you, I'll keep working on it all week. I'll get phone calls and we'll have continuous meetings,” Heller told KTNV, a local television station Wednesday.
Already this week, labor unions and liberal advocacy groups have organized events designed to pressure Sens. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) and Pat Toomey (R-Pa.).
Democratic lawmakers plan to launch a “tweetstorm” shortly after 1 p.m. Friday to build political momentum for another Senate vote on the issue.