As soon as the Senate invoked cloture on an extension of unemployment benefits, Republican House leadership signaled the trade for this will be enactment of pro-growth, pro-job bills passed by the house that Senate Democrats have refused to consider.
In a written statement, Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio) reminded colleagues that “the House has passed bill after bill that, taken together, would create a better environment for economic growth, investment, and new hiring in America. Dozens of bills are awaiting action in the Senate that would provide job skills training for the unemployed, ease job-destroying burdens on small businesses, promote innovation and education, create energy and infrastructure jobs, and get rid of the president’s health care law that is making it harder to hire workers in this country. To help Americans find new jobs, the president should call on the Senate to act on them.”
He then laid out the terms of a possible deal: “One month ago I personally told the White House that another extension of temporary emergency unemployment benefits should not only be paid for but include something to help put people back to work. To date, the president has offered no such plan. If he does, I’ll be happy to discuss it, but right now the House is going to remain focused on growing the economy and giving America’s unemployed the independence that only comes from finding a good job.”
In a separate statement, he makes three suggestions: Passage of the Keystone pipeline, relaxation of federal regulations impeding domestic energy development and a “hardship” exemption from the individual mandate for all Americans (not simply those whose insurance was canceled). The last — after months of Obamacare turmoil and the recognition the administration may have to do this anyway — can be seen in a different light than the pre-rollout demands that prompted the shutdown.
An aide in another leadership office reiterated the desire to shift to an affirmative agenda, telling Right Turn, “The SKILLS Act [passed by the House] directly addressed career and skill training for long-term unemployed. It would help folks go to a local community college or training center and get skills they need to find a new job. Shouldn’t that be a priority?”
This reflects the sea change that was brought about by the shutdown and the Obamacare rollout debacle. The House GOP does not want to give the president fodder to distract the public from Obamacare and for his class-warfare gambit, nor do they think recycling the same Obamacare demands (defund Obamacare, delay the whole bill) is going to get them anywhere. Instead, they want to highlight the Democrats’ preference for conflict over passage of sensible legislation that many Senate Democrats would have no problem passing. The shift from the negative (No on unemployment benefits or No on unemployment benefits unless you repeal Obamacare) to the positive (Yes, but give us something, too) reflects the desire to shift from anti-government rhetoric to a positive conservative reform agenda. And putting out three items is basic negotiation 101 — the Democrats will reject the Obamacare item but be hard pressed to reject out of hand other popular measures.
If right-wingers want to “fight” no matter what, House leaders appear ready to fight smarter. If so, 2014 will be a good year for the GOP.