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Dems try to create momentum for new jobless bill

WASHINGTON — Advocates for unemployed workers tried to create momentum Wednesday for a new bid in Congress to reinstate federal jobless benefits for people unable to find work.

A bill that would revive the Emergency Unemployment Compensation program for five months was introduced in the House by four lawmakers of each party, including two from Nevada.

The bill, similar to Senate legislation submitted this week, does not contain retroactive payments. But it would allow beneficiaries to pick up where they left off if they were collecting federal checks when the program expired Dec. 28.

Democrats also proposed a meeting with incoming House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, following informal conversations some have had with the California Republican in recent days.

“Under your new leadership, you have the opportunity to bring both sides of the aisle together to find a solution to this problem,” said a letter to McCarthy signed by 10 Democrats including Reps. Steven Horsford and Dina Titus of Nevada.

Nevada and Rhode Island remain the states with the highest unemployment.

Advocates for the jobless have held news conferences outside the Capitol each Wednesday for the past three weeks to highlight letters from constituents who have been unable to find work. The focus Wednesday was on unemployed veterans.

“We know the stories. We hear them all the time,” Titus said. “But we want the rest of the country to hear them as well.”

Since the federal compensation program expired, more than 3.1 million people have been without benefits, although some might have gotten new jobs as the economy has shown signs of recovering and the unemployment rate has improved in many states.

Horsford and Titus also co-sponsored the new House unemployment bill, with David Cicilline, D-R.I., and Dan Kildee, D-Mich. Four Republicans also signed on — Reps. Frank LoBiondo, Jon Runyan and Chris Smith, all of New Jersey, and Peter King of New York.

“We never should have gotten to the point where Congress failed to extend the benefits,” Horsford said of lawmakers’ inability to reach a deal in December. “It’s well past time for us to act.”

Sens. Jack Reed, D-R.I., and Dean Heller, R-Nev., sponsored the Senate bill.

Heller said this week he has spoken with McCarthy and sensed no change among House leaders who have not agreed to schedule votes on an unemployment bill.

Michael Steele, spokesman for Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said the leader’s position hasn’t changed. Rather than merely extend payments to the unemployed, Boehner wants the Obama administration to devise a plan to create more private-sector jobs.

Contact Stephens Washington Bureau Chief Steve Tetreault at stetreault@stephensmedia.com or 202-783-1760. Find him on Twitter: @STetreaultDC.

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