GOP, Dems to meet on jobless benefits bill

March 24, 2011 at 1:58 PM
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WASHINGTON, March 24 (UPI) -- The top two Republican leaders in the U.S. House said they will meet with Democrats to discuss a bill that would extend jobless benefits for 14 more weeks.

The bill is sponsored by Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., and has 74 co-sponsors.

House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia will meet in the coming weeks with Lee and Rep. Robert "Bobby" Scott, D-Va., The Hill reported Wednesday. Republicans indicated they may be willing to allow the bill to be considered provided Democrats can agree to spending cuts to offset the estimated $16 billion in costs of the additional benefits.

"Speaker Boehner has said he would have an open door policy for members of both parties ... and he meant it," Boehner spokesman Michael Steel told The Hill. "He is looking forward to hearing Representative Lee's ideas for spending cuts that a majority in the House of Representatives can support."

In a March 9 letter seeking the meeting, Lee and Scott indicated they were willing to find areas to cut. While saying they thought the nation's unemployment situation constitutes an emergency and the bill didn't require a spending offset, the two Democrats said they were "committed to exhausting every possible avenue to pass this bill."

"We want to work with you to identify how best to finance this legislation and ensure its swift passage," they wrote.

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