Alex Witt   |  January 04, 2014

Could benefits extension actually pass House?

Alex Witt talks to Rep. John Yarmuth. D-Ky., about the debate surrounding unemployment benefits and the future of the Affordable Care Act.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> on monday, the senate will hold a vote for long-term unemployment benefits . monday's vote is expected to pass in the senate. the house, as always, is a different story. member of the house budget committee with a welcome to you. happy new year. i see my irony, cynicism was not lost on you. given the history, you have to ask, does this half a hope of passing in the house?

>> well, i think there's a hope, alex. good morning and happy new year to you. you know, just like in kentucky we have 18,000 people who have lost their benefits. it is being repeated in state after state after state. and i think there are probably enough republicans in pennsylvania, ohio, places where pockets are pretty high unemployment where there will be a significant amount of pressure for them to do something. the real key is how we come up with $6 billion to pay for the extension for three months. if we come up with an offset that is acceptable, then i think we can get it done. it is ultimately, like everything else, this is up to speaker boehner and majority leader cantor to work their majority to get enough votes. virtually every democrat will vote for an extension.

>> 1.3 million americans working it out. there has to be some in your own backyard. what are you hearing from your constituents?

>> absolutely. the funny thing, the ironic thing again is that the american people understand that unemployment benefits are a very, very effective way of transitioning people back into the workforce. in 2012 , 2.5 million people were helped back into the workforce and sustained in their search for unemployment benefits . the people in kentucky understand that. we have 8% unemployment in the state. you take that money out of the economy, that hurts the job. the situation as well. people are way ahead of the poll takings on this. again, i think republicans who resist extending this policy, which was, again, implemented under a republican administration and in prior years didn't even require an offset, i think they will pay a price for it.

>> as you've heard, though there are critics of the extension for reasons we can't afford it. then you have job reports recently. we have to keep in mind, they were originally put into place as emergency benefits. so are they still needed?

>> well, absolutely. i think the average person has been out of work for 37 weeks. most states pay up to 26 weeks. this is not like these are exceptions to the rule or out liars or dead beats. this is the average person who is out there through no fault of their own looking for work. this is very important. again, this is $2 billion a month that comes out of the economy if we don't extend these benefits. that's a pretty big hit when we're trying to sustained some momentum in the economy. virtually every reason imaginable. foremost among them, the humane reason these people need to have a way to keep alive, we ought to be doing this.

>> with regard to health care , yesterday as you know eric cantor sent out a memo out lying the agenda for january. on the top of the list was obama care, particularly the security of healthcare.gov. do you have concerns there?

>> well, i have sat through several hearings on the security issues. and i think this is an overblown concern. you want to make sure that every security measure is in place. but, you know, the most important concern is whether health histories are vulnerable. they're not. they aren't even a part of the exchanges and the federal program . so i am really not that concerned about security. but i think we ought to be cautious and make sure that people's social security numbers and fundamental issues are protected. i'm not overly concerned about that. again, this is another fear tactic that the opponents give up repealing the law. they're seeing demand for the law. they're raising further questions. it's another red herring .

>> the administration announced enrollment in the top 2.1 million as we were hitting the new year. are you surprise bid that number given big picture where we are?

>> well, i think after the incredibly bad october and november enrollments, 2 million is phenomenal. in kentucky , just over the last few weeks, we have seen 170% growth in private enrollment. it is out grossing medicaid now. they have found out they are eligible for a subsidy. now they are picking their plan. all the signs are very, very positive right now. while you still have -- it's all a matter of what happens three months from now and six months from now. but i think the trends are very, very positive. i'm pleased with the way things are going.

>> we appreciate you coming on and doing a little work this morning.