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Sunday Show Round Up

Unemployment benefits will likely be the first issue on the 2014 legislative agenda.

• January 5, 2014 2:30 pm

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Lawmakers discussed on Sunday the packed 2014 legislative agenda and focused on the immediate extension of federal unemployment benefits.

"It’s good for the economy," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) said. "It’s good for the country. Every one of these people that are long-term unemployed, they spend the money. They don’t put it in the bank. It helps small business. That’s why small businesses favor this … they know it’s good for the economy."

Reid’s comments came during an appearance on CBS’ "Face the Nation."

Federal unemployment benefits, which expired on Dec. 28, are on the top of Reid’s legislative schedule.

Reid previously announced that he expected to hold a vote on an extension upon the Senate’s immediate return in 2014. President Barack Obama similarly advocated for extending the benefits in his weekly address, urging Congress to make the passage of a three-month extension "their first order of business."

However, many Republicans maintain that the cost of the program must be offset. Reid suggested that he is not presently willing to negotiate on that request.

"This is typical for Republican members of Congress," Reid said. "The vast majority of American people believe that unemployment benefits should be extended."

"Senator, you praised the budget deal back in December for reducing the deficit. You said that’s something that had to be done, but aren’t you just undoing that now with this?" asked CBS’s Bob Schieffer.

"The place we always look to find out what’s happening with the deficit is Bowles-Simpson. They set a goal of 4 trillion dollars. We’re already at 9 trillion dollars, and if we did comprehensive immigration reform it would be taken care of," Reid argued. "So it seems to me … we should start focusing on helping the middle class."

The Congressional Budget Office estimated that extending the program for one year would "increase direct spending by 25.7 billion." Consequently, the current proposal of a three-month extension would roughly cost taxpayers $6.4 billion.

House Speaker John Boehner (R., Ohio) has said he is open to extending the program, provided "it's paid for and as long as there are other efforts that'll help get our economy moving once again."

Sen. Rand Paul (R., Ky.) expressed a similar view on ABC’s "This Week."

"I've always said that I'm not opposed to unemployment insurance," Paul said.

"I am opposed to having it without paying for it. I think it's wrong to borrow money from China or simply to print up money for it. But I'm not against having unemployment insurance."

Gov. Scott Walker (R., Wis.) made similar points on CNN’s "State of the Union," adding, "any discussion about this should be focused on what kind of reforms are we going to put in place."

Paul also noted that an extension should be two-fold.

"One, if we extend it, we pay for it. But, two, we add something to it that would create jobs," Paul said. "What I have been promoting are economic freedom zones, which any area that has unemployment one-and-a-half times the national average, we would dramatically lower taxes to try to spur and stimulate the economy there and create jobs."

Gene Sperling, director of the National Economic Council, expressed optimism that legislation would be passed. He said on "Meet the Press" that he hoped the time lawmakers spent out of Washington with constituents have made the odds of passage "quite good."

"Fourteen of the last 17 times that emergency unemployment’s been extended there’s been no string attached," Sperling said. "So look, why don’t we do this? Let’s pass the Heller-Reed proposal tomorrow … and then we can have time to then work for what is the best way to extend it for the rest of the year."

Sen. Dean Heller (R., Nev.) is the only Senate Republican known to support the current legislation to extend benefits, a proposal he co-authored with Sen. Jack Reed (D., R.I.).

On Fox News Sunday, former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney responded to controversial statements made by MSNBC’s Melissa Harris-Perry in regards to the race of his adopted grandson. Harris-Perry apologized Saturday for the remarks on-air.

"First let me just note," Romney began. "We love this little guy a great deal. He was an answer to prayer, and we love that he is part of our family. He is part of our family."

"I recognize that people make mistakes," he continued. "And the folks at MSNBC made a big mistake, and they’ve apologized for it. That’s all can you ask for. I am going to move on from that. I’m sure they want to move on from it. Look, I’ve made plenty of mistakes myself, and they’ve apologized for this."

"I think it was a heartfelt apology," Romney added. "And I think for that reason we hold no ill-will whatsoever."