ABC News’ Matthew Jaffe reports:
The battle between Harry Reid and Sharron Angle for the Nevada Senate seat is playing out today on Capitol Hill.
At the center of the feud is Reid’s push for an extension of unemployment benefits for the long-term jobless. The Senate Majority Leader has been trying for months to overcome a partisan deadlock on the issue, but Republicans have blocked his attempts time and time again. Earlier this month, benefits ran out for around 1.2 million people.
This week Reid is taking another stab at it, but with a twist. By combining the reinstatement of unemployment insurance with an extension of the popular homebuyer tax credit, he hopes he can drum up enough support to pass the measure.
“It’s the right thing to do, it’s what is needed, and it’s what the people of this country deserve,” he told reporters at a press conference Wednesday in the Capitol.
But Angle, his opponent in Nevada, believes jobless benefits should be scaled back, arguing that people get so much money for nothing that they decide not to go back to work.
“The truth about it is that they keep extending these unemployment benefits to the point that people are afraid to go out and get a job because the job doesn’t pay as much as the unemployment benefit does and what we really need to do is put people back to work,” Angle told the Las Vegas Sun’s Jon Ralston in an interview on Tuesday.
“What has happened is the system of entitlement has caused us to have a spoilage with our ability to go out and get a job,” she said.
“There are some jobs out there that are available,” continued Angle. “Because they have to enter at a lower grade and they cannot keep their unemployment, they have to make a choice now. We’re making them make a choice between unemployment benefits and going back to work and working up through the ranks of that job and actually building up a good wage again and building up some seniority. What we need to do is make that unemployment benefit go down, not just completely remove the safety net from them while they go out and go to work.”
Nevada, incidentally, has the highest unemployment rate in the nation at 14 percent. Unemployment benefits there can range as high as $362 a week. The Senate bill, at a cost of nearly $34 billion, would extend jobless benefits for six months through November at a cost to the deficit of nearly $34 billion. It would also retroactively reinstate benefits for people who lost them when the program ran out at the end of May.
So today on Capitol Hill Reid responded to Angle’s argument, an argument also shared by some other critics such as Rand Paul, the Republican candidate for the Senate seat in Kentucky.
“They don’t know what they’re talking about,” Reid said.
“Nobody’s getting rich on unemployment insurance, but every day we deny it to those who are out of work, we weaken our nation,” he said.
That was a view echoed by Labor Secretary Hilda Solis.
“The clock is ticking,” Solis said. “Those Americans who have lost the jobs through no fault of their own are counting on the Senate to stand up.”
Whether or not the Senate will stand up remains to be seen, but Reid said today that two Republicans had told him they would support the extension.
A vote is expected on Thursday. The Reid-Angle feud, meanwhile, will not be settled until the November elections.