WASHINGTON — Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid refused a Republican offer on Tuesday to extend expired unemployment benefits for Americans who can’t find jobs in return for delaying a central Obamacare mandate.
“This is a guise to obstruct — as has been happening during the five years President Obama has been president of the United States — and I object with as much fervor as I can,” Reid said on the Senate floor on Tuesday in response to the offer.
His comments came as Democrats scrambled to secure enough votes in the Senate to advance a bill to reinstate payments to more than 1 million unemployed Americans that expired at the end of the year.
Republicans on Capitol Hill have opposed the extension under the argument that they should be accompanied with meaningful spending cuts.
On Tuesday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell offered an amendment to the unemployment benefits bill that would delay the individual mandate in Obamacare for a year that requires all Americans to purchase health insurance or face fines.
“I’m sure that many on my side would like to see these additional weeks of benefits extended, if like the speaker of the House indicated he supported, we could find a way to extend them without actually adding to the national debt,” McConnell said Tuesday.
“So to that end, I’d like to propose that we be allowed — my side be allowed — to offer an amendment to pay for these benefits by lifting the burden of Obamacare’s individual mandate for one year,” the Kentucky Republican said.
McConnell asked for unanimous consent on the amendment, but Reid immediately objected.
Conservative groups have urged lawmakers to oppose the legislation.
The Heller-Reed plan would extend these unemployment benefits for three months “with no spending offset,” Club for Growth lobbyist Andy Roth pointed out in a memo to lawmakers on Monday.