The House voted Wednesday to dismantle an Obama administration rule that Republicans say restricts the ability of states to prevent drug users from receiving unemployment benefits.
The rule, which was published in the Federal Register last August, was meant to implement a law that requires people receiving these benefits to be able and ready for work. The law gave states the option of denying drug users these benefits.
But Republicans opposed the rule from the Labor Department because it limited this option, by only allowing states to deny benefits to people in the transportation or pipeline management industries, those who use firearms in their job, or people in jobs that normally require drug testing.
The House voted 236-189 to kill the rule.
The rule “ignored the intent of Congress, disregarded most comments and the concern of stakeholders, and above all, the final rule directly undermined the ability of states to implement the important bipartisan reform that will help unemployed workers in their quest to find a good-paying new job,” said House Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady on the House floor Wednesday. Brady proposed legislation last year, the Ready for Work Act, that would have given the states, not the Labor Department, the power to determine which individuals claiming unemployment.
Democrats are worried that any changes to the rule would create too many obstacles for people to get unemployment benefits who are genuinely looking for work and who have already paid into the unemployment benefits program. They argued that lawmakers should focus on helping these people get treatment and not put down those individuals who have found themselves in a bind.
Rep. Sander Levin, D-Mich., a former chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, said lawmakers were not doing enough to help the unemployed find work and said the bill “attempts to demean those needing help.”
The resolution disapproves of the rule and compels the Labor Department to write another one. It was passed under the Congressional Review Act, a law that gives Congress the ability to block recently enacted rules by passing disapproval resolutions with a simple majority vote that are then signed by the president.
President Trump is expected to sign it once it clears the Senate. Last week, the Trump administration put out a statement that condemned the Obama-era rule for imposing an “arbitrarily narrow definition of occupations and constrains a State’s ability to conduct a drug testing program in its unemployment insurance system.”