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Fiorina shifts on jobless bill, says she would 'probably' break with GOP

July 20, 2010 | 11:20 am

Republican Senate nominee Carly Fiorina has shifted her position on the extension of jobless benefits to America’s long-term unemployed, stating Tuesday morning that she “probably” would break with her party and support the extension if she was in the Senate for the vote expected today.

In recent weeks, Sen. Barbara Boxer has called Fiorina heartless for stating that she would not support the pending aid to an estimated 2.5 million Americans. As part of her attempt to frame Fiorina as out of touch with average workers, the California Democrat has tried to tie Fiorina’s position on the legislation to her record as chief executive of Hewlett-Packard, where she laid off thousands of workers.

For several weeks, Fiorina had said she supported extending the jobless benefits, but not without spending cuts to balance the bill's $33.9-billion cost. Speaking Tuesday morning on KGO-AM (810), Fiorina shifted her position, supporting the extension even though Congress has not specified spending cuts to offset it.

“I probably would vote for this extension, but I’ll tell you what, I think it is absolutely appropriate for people to stand on their desks and say, ‘When is it that we’re finally going to do what needs to be done and cut government spending?’ ” Fiorina said.

When the radio host noted that she would be breaking with the GOP, Fiorina said she believed voters were tired of career politicians “because everything comes down to party ideology.”

“The GOP isn’t going to send me to Washington, D.C., the people of California are,” said Fiorina, who fashioned herself as a “battle-tested” conservative Republican during the primary. “And the people of California want a little bit of practical problem-solving and common sense.”

Fiorina’s spokeswoman Julie Soderlund said Fiorina continues to have concerns about the rising deficit, but felt compelled to support the measure because of California’s high unemployment rate. The state's unemployment rate has dropped since the debate over the bill began — it fell from 12.4% in May to 12.3% in June. Soderlund said Fiorina's decision on the legislation had nothing to do with criticism from Boxer and Democratic groups.

“What’s different from a few weeks ago is that the Democrats are pushing this bill through no matter what today. There are two choices, you either support the extension of the benefits or millions of Californians suffer,” Soderlund said, accusing Democrats of election-year politicking. “Despite the fact that Carly strongly disagrees with their irresponsible and election-year-driven decision not to offset the cost of the extension of the benefits, she also refuses to stand by and let 2.2 million unemployed Californians” —who she said were failed by the federal stimulus package — “suffer without work.”

— Maeve Reston in Los Angeles

twitter: LATimesReston