Boehner: House GOP Backs Extending Federal Payments to Unemployed

By Matt Cover | December 1, 2011 | 3:15 PM EST

House Speaker John Boehner (AP Photo)

( – House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said that House Republicans were committed to extending unemployment benefits for the long-term unemployed, and added that any such extension “must” be paid for with spending cuts.

“Republicans are ready to work with the president and the Democrats to extend the payroll tax cut and unemployment insurance temporarily, but they must be offset with spending cuts elsewhere,” Boehner said at his weekly press conference on Thursday.

Boehner said the reason he thought that unemployment benefits should be paid for was that despite Washington’s habit of not paying for them, they constituted, in fact, “money racing out the door.”

“I know people have not ever looked at it as spending but the fact is it’s money racing out the door,” he said. “Now, I think we’ve identified sufficient areas of common ground when it comes to the types of cuts that could be used in order to make sure it’s paid for.”

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Graphic shows the total number of Americans that have been unemployed for at least 52 weeks. (AP)

The current unemployment benefits extension expires at the end of this year, and if a new extension is not passed, then millions of Americans who have been unemployed for longer than the typical benefits cover would not receive more benefits.

Typically, unemployment insurance lasts a maximum of six months, but Congress has regularly extended them during the current economic downturn, as more than 4 million  Americans have remained unemployed for more than a year, according to Labor Department data.

While still being negotiated, the extension would probably cover another 99 weeks (2 years) of unemployment, the time period covered by the previous extension.