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Lee on 99ers: We’re “Working with White House” to Find Money

Rep. Lee and President Obama last year

WH + UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE. Yesterday afternoon, as House Republicans voted to end foreclosure assistance, I spoke with Rep. Barbara Lee on the status of her unemployment insurance extension bill, H.R. 589. “We’re looking for the money, we’re working with the White House and we’re trying to identify the ‘payfors,” Lee said.  She added, “Under the paygo rules there is a provision to allow you to designate something as an ‘economic emergency,” which would allow you to do something without finding the payfor…”

An emergency designation from the White House would allow the White House to authorize Congress to allocate the money without finding a specific way to pay for it or another program that would have to be cut to pay for it.  That the White House is involved in any way is news.  What the odds the President would declare the allocation of an unemployment extension an “economic emergency” is unknown.  The Obama White House is a non often an over active participant in the legislative process. It’s not often that members refer to them as being part of the process regarding bills.

It ‘s still unclear whether the cost of the legislation is $16 billion dollars so the amount being “looked for” in the budget is unknown. Though $16 billion was the number mentioned by Rep. Lee at her press conference on February 9, 2011, she made it clear her office is still, “working on that number.” It’s unlikely the Congressional Budget Office will officially score this legislation. The number could actually be lower.

Boehner has not seen Lee/Scott Letter Yet. As Speaker Boehner walked to the House floor I asked him if he had seen the letter Reps. Lee and Bobby Scott sent to him on Wednesday, March 9th.  He said he had not seen the letter yet. When I asked him if there was any possibility he’d meet with Lee and Scott he simply repeated he hadn’t seen the letter and walked on to the House floor for votes.