Transcript: Press briefing Q&A w/ Sen. Harry Reid on the failure to extend unemployment benefits – Jan. 16, 2014

Partial transcript of the press briefing Q&A wit Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nevada) on the failure to extend unemployment insurance on Jan. 16, 2014:

Question:
[Inaudible]

Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nevada):
I don’t think that we’re anywhere near that. We hope that something will work. We’ve made progress on nominations. We’ll see what the next few weeks bring on that front. We have – as a caucus – announced to our Republican colleagues – they want to start doing relevant amendments…we’re happy to do that. As indicated, in unemployment compensation, we’ve had 20 amendments that are available with that. That was the deal we made with them, offered them. Of course, that wasn’t good enough because I was too “mean”. 10 on each side – we’re happy to do that…

Question:
Republicans have sort of alleged that you never wanted this unemployment bill to pass, that you wanted to campaign against their obstruction. What is your response to that?

Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nevada):
I have 9% unemployment. As I indicated, we’re tied with Rhode Island. These are people I know who can’t find work. One Republican leader laughed about this, as you know, thinks it’s funny. This is not funny.

I went through a litany of excuses they have as each of my fellow leaders did a few minutes ago. This is asinine that they would even suggest that.

Question:
…Paying for UI through continuing sequester cuts – the Medicare sequester cuts. I’m wondering if you’d keep that pay-for and…?

Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nevada):
Our pay-for – we’re satisfied with our pay-for. It is something that Congressman Ryan came up with. We’ve extended this, and we think it’s a good pay-for.

Question:
House Democrats sent a letter to Speaker Boehner asking for a cancelled recess next week to stay here and continue to deal with this issue. Is that something you’d consider for the Senate?

Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nevada):
…We are in a procedural posture where we can move to this legislation anytime we want. If the Republicans have a proposal or my Democrats have a proposal that they think would get 60 votes, we can move forward on that. We can do that expeditiously.

As I’ve said and my fellow leaders have said here this morning, I think it’s probably a pretty good idea that the Senators go home – the Republican Senators, including those who have laughed about how funny this was that they’re not getting the extension that they deserve – and explain to the American people and people in their states that they’re opposing unemployment insurance because – I repeat for the third time this morning – I’m “mean” to them, that they don’t like the pay-for even though it’s the pay-for that Paul Ryan came up with. Excuses have run out. They have no reason for opposing this. Except we have a few Republicans who are being honest – publicly they said they don’t want this; they don’t believe in the program.

We believe in the program and we’re going to continue to work on it.

Question:
Right after you come back, February’s around the corner. How quickly will you move on a debt limit increase? What’s the next step on that?

Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nevada):
Well, that is not urgent. We keep getting different numbers on that but we think sometime in May it will be necessary.

Question:
[Inaudible]

Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nevada):
I’m just telling you what I heard yesterday. Maybe that’s wrong but that’s what I heard. Maybe it’s April. I don’t know but we’ll deal with it. But one thing the President did make very clear yesterday and he was extremely emphatic as he was in the last go-around of this, he – we – will not negotiate on extending the debt limit. Period.

Thanks everybody.

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