House GOP Rethinking Attempt To Gut Unemployment Benefits? No, They're Just 'Confused'

May 26, 2011 5:22 pm ET — Alan Pyke

Confused by their own attempt to gut the unemployment insurance system, House Republicans have pulled a bill from Rules Committee consideration at the last minute, citing "an 'education' issue," Politico reports:

House Republicans yanked a bill to tweak unemployment insurance after Republican lawmakers raised concerns that the legislation was too confusing and would be dead in the Senate. [...]

Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said there was an "education" issue with the bill. The House Rules Committee postponed setting the bill's parameters for debate late Wednesday evening.

A GOP source said, "[Ways and Means Chairman Dave] Camp briefed members yesterday because he believes member education is an important component to any piece of legislation and there was strong, positive feedback on the policy, but, as you know, floor activity is always fluid."

So what's this all about? In a party-line vote earlier this month, the Ways and Means Committee advanced a bill that would allow states to spend federal unemployment insurance funding on other things. Democrats and the New York Times editorial page correctly noted that Ways and  Means was going back on the GOP's December agreement with the White House to extend federal unemployment benefits in exchange for a two-year continuation of the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy.

Still, Republicans appeared determined to forge ahead. The Jobs, Opportunity, Benefits, and Services Act (you can almost see Eric Cantor smirking his way through a dozen TV interviews about the "JOBS Act") was scheduled for a Rules Committee hearing this morning, meaning it was very close to reaching the House floor — until Chairman Dave Dreier (R-CA) postponed the hearing "subject to the ball [sic] of the chair."

Strange tidings, given the messaging coup Ways and Means seemed to have lined up. Even the economically useless "JOBS Act" would have given the beltway media something other than Medicare to write about for a day or three. Too bad for Republicans that their own brand management legislation, which would harm the recovery and punish the jobless, is running into 'education issues.'

Check out our full post on the bill to see why it would be bad for the jobless and the economy.