WASHINGTON -- Republicans say they have opposed Democratic attempts to extend long-term unemployment benefits on various grounds, including that the country can't afford it, that Congress has to find a way to pay for the benefits, and that extending aid encourages dependence on the government.
Some say it's a matter of principle.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said there's another reason: Republicans just don't care.
"We came within one vote of passing a short-term extension of unemployment benefits," Reid told reporters on Capitol Hill Tuesday, referring to a vote last week that would have extended benefits for three months for people who have been out of work for more than a half-year. About 1.7 million people have run out of unemployment insurance since long-term benefits expired on Dec. 26. Congress has not renewed them amid the fight over how to pay for the cost.
"A couple of Republicans said, 'Yeah, I wanted to vote for that, but we didn't get an amendment that we wanted,'" Reid said. "So, since that vote took place, we have been asking and asking and asking what amendments do you want? We can't get them to come forward with any amendments, which underscores, which underlines what we've been saying. They have no intention of passing unemployment benefits, for short-term or long-term, because they don't care.
"It's obvious from their actions," Reid said.
A Republican aide pointed out that GOP senators offered dozens of amendments over the course of debate on the bill that failed last week -- including nine that were offered Feb. 6 -- and those did not get votes. (Democrats had been willing to grant 10 amendments, but only if the GOP agreed to allow a simple majority vote on the final bill, which Republicans objected to.) Reid appears to be referring to a lack of any fresh suggestions, although Republicans still would like votes on the older offerings.
A Democratic aide said Republicans have yet to offer a coherent list of the 10 amendments.
Watch Reid, above.