BOSTON (CBS) – Marty Walsh sat down for his first congressional hearing as labor secretary before the House Education and Labor Committee Wednesday morning. And while his nomination hearing last March was a love-fest, this was anything but.

Republican members zeroed in on their party’s favorite line of attack on the Biden unemployment policies these days, their claim – based strictly on anecdotal evidence – that “workers are incentivized to sit at home because of this additional $300 per week” in supplemental federal aid to the jobless, as Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY), the House Republican Conference chair, put it.

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“Given the plunge in COVID-19 cases and the unprecedented challenges businesses on all sides are experiencing in my district and many other places, is it time for federal emergency employment insurance to be terminated?” asked Rep. Tim Walberg (R-Michigan). “I can give you a simple answer to that – no,” replied Walsh, who later added: “If there are reasons people aren’t going back in the workforce, it’s lack of child care, it’s schools still being hybrid, it’s people who haven’t been vaccinated.”

Rep. Jim Banks (R-Indiana) cited the news that the Chipotle fast-food chain is raising their menu prices four percent to deal with rising labor costs. “Is that a good sign or a bad sign for our economy?” he asked, Walsh. “I  think the fact that they want to pay their workers more is a good sign,” Walsh replied.

They kept trying. Stefanik demanded to know if Walsh would compare hiring data from the 25 GOP-led states that have said they’ll suspend the $300 payments with other states that have not. Walsh pointed out that none of them have actually followed through yet (although four states – Alaska, Iowa, Mississippi and Missouri – are slated to do so this weekend), and noted that in any case, the benefit runs out at the end of September.

Republicans think the issue is a winner for them, and the most recent polling shows a slim majority of voters also want the benefit ended. Whether or not any political benefit will last until the midterm elections next year is another story.

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But failing to ruffle Walsh with that line of questioning, a couple of the committee’s GOP members tried another tack, zeroing in on disputed accusation Walsh ignored domestic violence claims against his choice for Boston Police commissioner, Dennis White, a charge seconded by his predecessor, Willie Gross.

“Do you assert that Mr. Gross and/or Mr. White lied with these sworn affidavits and sworn statements?” asked Rep. Bob Good (R-Virginia).

“I never received the file on Dennis White,” said Walsh.

“Mr. Biden won’t admit to the corrupt dealings of his own son Hunter, so his failure to uphold high standards for his administration should come as no surprise,” concluded Good.

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Welcome to Washington, 2021, where anecdote, innuendo and the politics of personal destruction are the coin of the realm.

Jon Keller