Thursday, December 08, 2011

House Republicans May Mandate Drug Testing As Condition Of Continuing Unemployment Benefits

By Marie Diamond/Think Progress

In an effort to drastically reduce the welfare rolls and make it more difficult for struggling families to receive government benefits, GOP governors and legislators have pushed mandatory drug testing laws. Not only do welfare recipients have to pass drug tests before they can collect benefits, they often have to pay for the test themselves, and will only be reimbursed by the state later if they pass.
Now House Republicans are considering making their vote to reauthorize unemployment insurancecontingent on a mandatory drug testing requirement:
The bill by Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.) would require unemployment claimants to pass a drug test if they are identified in an initial screening as having a high probability of drug use.
The proposal comes as Congress is mulling a reauthorization of federal jobless benefits for people out of work six months or longer. House Republicans have been drafting legislation, but the details have not been released. [...]
On Thursday morning, [spokesman for Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) Michael] Steel told HuffPost in an email he didn’t know whether the forthcoming unemployment legislation would include Kingston’s drug testing idea. A spokesman for the Republican leader of the House Ways and Means committee, which oversees unemployment insurance, could not confirm details of the bill.
Steel said on Wednesday that Republicans are looking to “reform” unemployment insurance before they will reauthorize benefits that are set to expire at the end of the year.
Despite their unwillingness to raise taxes on millionaires and billionaires, Republicans have been reluctant to extend unemployment insurance and the payroll tax break that middle class families depend on more than ever. President Obama has noted that if Republicans vote no, middle class families will have to pay an additional $1,000 in taxes next year.
Republicans have willfully ignored evidence that drug testing requirements cost more money than they save and welfare recipients actually use drugs less than other groups.
Earlier this year a federal judge halted Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s (R) mandatory drug testing policy on constitutional grounds. Only 2.5 percent of welfare applicants failed the test, which Huffington Post notes is “a far lower rate of illicit drug use than the national average of 8.7 percent.”
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