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Unemployment Benefits Expire; What Will Congress Do?

November 29, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

Federal unemployment insurance, which provides a lifeline for millions of long-term unemployed workers, expires today, and from here on out it’s going to be harder than ever for the Democrats in Congress to pass another extension.

The Republicans have officially begun chipping away at the Democrats’ majority in the Senate. Republican Mark Kirk was sworn in Monday, taking over for Democrat Roland Burris as the junior Senator from Illinois and knocking the Democrats’ Senate majority down to 58. Kirk has made his opposition to the Democrats’ plans for extending unemployment benefits clear, saying on Fox recently that he would vote against any extension that is not offset by new revenue.

The last time the Democrats tried to pass an unemployment extension, with Sen. Ben Nelson [D, NE] defecting, it took them six weeks to find the two votes they needed to get to 60. Assuming Nelson is still a “no,” now they will have to find three votes now to get 60 votes and break a filibuster. Not likely to happen given the time constraints.

So the Democrats have basically two options for getting this done. Either they find an offset — some kind of targeted tax increase or spending cut — or they tie this together with something the Republicans really want and force them to accept the unemployment extension along with it. Right now, the latter approach is looking most likely, with Democratic leaders already discussing a “grab bag” of compromise ideas to tie in with a vote on extending all of the 2001 Bush tax cuts.

From the perspective of the unemployed, the advantage of this approach is that the Democrats would actually have some bargaining power and could ask for a longer extension. A couple weeks ago when House Dems tried a stand-alone unemployment extension bill, they were trying for only three months. Today, Sen. Max Baucus [D, MT] introduced a bill to extend benefits for all of 2011, and that seems to be an emerging Democratic consensus given the Fed’s recent projections that the unemployment rate will stay pretty much where it’s at now for all of 2011.  Combined with an extension of the Bush tax cuts, the Democrats could go for a longer extension, or even try for adding more weeks for unemployed workers who have exhausted all their available benefits. There operable word here, of course, is “could.” There’s really no way to know at this point beyond pure speculation what they will actually do.

Of course, the grand irony in all this would be that the Republicans, who have positioned themselves against the unemployment benefits because they are not paid for, would end up accepting them because they so badly want to extend the Bush tax cuts, which are also not paid for. The result of all the compromising would be a massive deficit enhancing package, which is something both sides say they don’t want, but which neither are willing to oppose if they get a bit of something they really want in it. That said, the Congressional Budget Office has determined that unemployment insurance is about five times more effective at increasing overall economic output than reducing income taxes in 2011 (e.g. a la an extension of the Bush tax cuts).

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Comments

Displaying 31-43 of 43 total comments.

  • beenblue 11/30/2010 11:52am

    And as a post script : We need to remind the Republicans that are ignoring their fault in this fiasco, while calling us “lazy” and in need of “tuff love” That none of this could have been possible without them. It`s like they break into your house and vandalize your property, and blame you for not having better locks, then burn your house down as they leave to cancel your insurance. I think it would be great to have T-shirts that read “YOU BROKE IT , YOU OWN IT” we won`t forget. Let`s see them crawl over that truth, while they call for “tuff love” for their victims.

  • Abaratarrr 11/30/2010 1:22pm

    anyone that expected this bill to pass unpaid for with a unanimous consent vote is an idiot. this was all just a show meant for news paper headlines. It was a waste of time they are simply playing games.

  • Abaratarrr 11/30/2010 3:17pm

    “Brown delivered the speech as he attempted a compromise on extending unemployment benefits that expire tomorrow. His compromise involved using unobligated federal funds to pay for the cost of extending the benefits
    “Are we going to do it from the bank account, or are we going to put it on the credit card?” he added. "I know what I want to do. I’ll use the bank account. Let’s use money that’s already in the system and put it to good use immediately, by 12 o’clock tonight. Let’s do it!”

    Under Senate rules, Brown’s proposal would have needed unanimous approval, but it failed because one senator – Jack Reed, a Democrat from Rhode Island – objected."

    http://www.boston.com/news/politics/politicalintelligence/2010/11/brown_gives_fei.html

    so why do all of the headline read “unemployment extension blocked by republicans”?

  • yvonne8 11/30/2010 3:43pm

    It isn’t the fault of the unemployed that jobs are not available. Yet Republicans declare the unemployed are not only lazy but insurance benefits prevent them from looking for a job. Fact is, if the Republicans were doing their jobs, instead of fighting with the Democrats; Republicans would get on the band-wagon to secure jobs for Americans. Why don’t the Republicans do just that. Because they know there are no jobs. It’s easier to blame someone else; point the finger and someone else; accuse someone else and name call someone else. Republicans know full well the economy will remain in the pit throughout 2011. It’s so much easier to finger point than to take the blame where the blame belongs. Repblicans protect their own: business owners, high-rollers, the rich, and the richer. To heck with poor people. To heck with the unemployed. To heck with the underemployed. To heck with Democrats.

  • SunshineHybrid 11/30/2010 7:08pm

    It is a sad time in our country. I have been reading many things on the internet concerning our impending doom. How many will die this winter because of lack of heat? How many will committ suicide and take their children with them because they feel that there is no hope? I have worked public work ever since I was 14 years old with the dream that things would get better and I would have a better life by working and being part of the American dream. What a lie our political officials have lead us to believe. The only people that have the American dream are the rich and they got theirs off the backs of others. Are we doomed for another holicost and the American people are going to be the ones to be exterminated? How many people have to be destroyed to make sense of all the wheeling and dealing in Congress? There will be an after life and believe me and you will pay then.

  • gerryd 11/30/2010 7:57pm

    After spending the day watching C-Span and literally throwing up, I got rid of every American Flag in my house, even the one that was draped on my husband’s casket because that is what he would have wanted if he were here. These horrific, greedy so-called Leaders UGH have made complete fools out of all the hard-working, tax-paying Americans who put paid their salaries for so many years and the News Media Anchors and Journalists, who are also millionaires as well and are down-playing the unemployment situation have done the same to all of us. I am a 99er and my heart goes out to all of you people who were turned down today. I got my last benefit in September and hundreds of resumes later have had only 4 actual interviews. THERE ARE NO JOBS THERE!! I guess the only thing I can suggest is that you do what I do each day – pray for a DEPRESSION and enjoy watching the Dow Jones Average Drop everyday because then THEY will be losing money and then they can see what it feels like!!

  • gerryd 11/30/2010 8:03pm

    I ALSO CANNOT WAIT FOR MORE EMBARRASSING INFORMATION TO BE RELEASED FROM THAT WIKILEAKS STUFF!! I HOPE THAT GUY GETS IT OUT BEFORE HE GETS CAUGHT. THAT HAS TO BE MAKING THEM ALL FEEL LIKE FOOLS NOT TO MENTION HOW AMERICA MUST LOOK TO ALL THE PEOPLE THROUGHOUT THE WORLD. HOW IN THE NAME OF GOD COULD A MAN BREACH THE SECURITY THE WAY THIS GUY DID?? THINK GOD HAD A HAND IN THIS? I AM A FIRM BELIEVER IN WHAT GOES AROUND COMES AROUND AND ALSO THE TERM THAT “GOD DOES NOT LIKE UGLY” AND THERE ARE SURE A LOT OF VERY UGLY PEOPLE IN WASHINGTON!!!

  • gerryd 11/30/2010 8:09pm

    I SWEAR JOHN BOEHNER IS AN ALCOHOLIC – HE HAS THAT LOOK. AND THAT SENATOR FROM MASS. APPEARED AS THOUGH HE WAS NIPPING HIMSELF WHEN HE GAVE HIS SPEECH TODAY!! BET THE MARTINIS FLOW BETWEEN SESSIONS. IF YOU DON’T WATCH C-SPAN I SUGGEST YOU DO. IT IS BETTER THAN ANY COMEDY SHOW. MITCH MCCONNELL LOOKS LIKE AN EVIL WEASEL – GOD I COULD GO ON AND ON AND ON!!!

  • tomjw 12/01/2010 5:32am

    well the weathy polititions in washington are more concerned about how many nuclear weapons the russians have,not about the unemployed americans who paid for our weapons.why not,its easier for them to discuss, then the real and present dangers that we are going thru.without having americans working and paying taxes how do they expect to balance a budget ? with more people about to apply for social services from the government how do they expect to balance the budget?they dont.its just dancing around the real problem,and that problem is THEM!!!

  • g4jaxn101 12/01/2010 10:32am

    Americans do not what to be in the predicament that they are in. We were not asked if we wanted NAFTA. We did not want to lose our jobs. We just want our elected politicians to represent us and do what we the people sent them to Washington to do. Instead they cater to the rich, big business and wallstreet. The rich politicians will ever do anything for the working man and woman of America. Our way of life has been permanently lost to greed.

  • general 12/02/2010 5:53am

    Revoultion is the only answer how much more can the working used to be middle class take enough is enough lets hear it people

  • gerryd 12/02/2010 9:48am

    I agree with the General. We all need to REVOLT in a civil way and let them know we are ANGRY!! I am tired of feeling humiliated, degraded, sad, and scared! I am quite surprised that the REPUBLICANS have not thought of just putting the millions of unemployed, who have lost and are about to lose their benefits, into a giant OVEN! I believe a man did that many years ago and I am quite sure that Mitch McConnell would probably be delighted to be the one to push the button to rid them all of, in THEIR WORDS, those people who are “ADDING TO THE DEFICIT”. After all, they do it to animals in the name of mercy. They are continually “water-boarding” us day after day so I am sure they would be very willing to do this instead!!!!

  • shakti 12/04/2010 8:00am

    Let me start out by saying I truly pray for those of you who are TRULY out there looking for work and are TRULY willing to take any job you can find and have been unable to do so. Unfortunately I have personally seen another side to this. In the area I live there are alot of HELP WANTED signs and when I speak to other business owners they can’t get help. These are not high paying jobs but 12-15 per hour, many with benefits. I know personally of at least a dozen people who are unemployed and when I tell them about these jobs they say it is not worth their time, not their field, a cut in pay etc. I have no choice but to believe that the individuals I am speaking of just do not want to work! Those types of people do need to have their benefits suspended!!!! For those of you TRULY trying anything then I agree with helping you out. The system needs a much better checks and balance system.

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