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Prospects Dim for Unemployment Insurance Extension

October 11, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

The American Jobs Act contains a provision that would be extremely stimulative in terms of GDP expansion and jobs growth while also providing direct relief to the workers who have been hardest hit by the recession. Yet in discussions over which parts of the bill to keep for inclusion in a smaller, bipartisan package after the American Jobs Act is officially killed, that provision doesn't seem to be popular.

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Previewing the Obama Jobs Plan

September 7, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

Various news outlets are out this morning with a top-line number for the stimulus measure that Obama will be proposing before a jointy session of Congress tomorrow night -- $300 billion. According to the reports, most of that money would be used for extending current measures that are scheduled to expire soon. Just $100 billion or so would be spent on new stimulus measures, which is clearly not enough of an investment to create the levl of demand for goods and services that's needed to get businesses hiring. Let's take a look at the specifics.

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Richard Cohen at Politico has a piece this morning on what is probably the most important trend in Congress right now. According to the article, Republicans, from the leadership down, are warming up to the idea of raising revenue through increasing corporate tax rates and closing loopholes. "The targeting of long-protected tax breaks — for ethanol, research and development, manufacturing and foreign company income — is a sign that key House Republicans are ready to break with the orthodoxy of past tax debates while ditching special interests that have long held sway in tax reform discussions," Cohen writes. So what does it mean for the hottest issue among users of OpenCongress -- extending unemployment insurance for the very-long-term unemployed who have exhausted all available benefits without finding new work?

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Progress for 99ers Legislation

March 22, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

Reps. Barbara Lee [D, CA-9] and Bobby Scott [D, VA-3] have been hustling on the Hill to help the long-term unemployed. Since they introduced their bill to extend unemployment insurance to the approximately 3.9 million people who have been out of work for more than two years and have exhausted their benefits -- so-called "99ers" -- they have almost doubled their list of co-sponsors. And now they've secured a meeting with the Republican House leadership to discuss ways that the bill could be offset and, presumably, moved ahead in the legislative process.

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Every week, 35,000 unemployed Americans reach the end of their insurance benefits without finding new jobs and join the ranks of a growing group of recession victims known as the "99ers." According to the Congressional Budget Office, there are at least 1.4 million 99ers right now, and with the unemployment rate expected to stay high for several years, it's statistically certain that that number will increase dramatically in the coming months.

Given the facts of the situation, some congressional Democrats are pushing legislation to extend the unemployment insurance lifeline to help relieve the hardship these people are facing. On Wednesday, Rep. Barbara Lee [D, CA-9] reintroduced a bill in the new Congress that would add 14 weeks to the current federal unemployment insurance system and provide those benefits retroactively for people who have already exhausted all their benefits. Lee introduced her bill, the Emergency Unemployment Compensation Expansion Act, with 47 co-sponsors -- all Democrats -- and according to rumors she is already up to 60.

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Is there hope for 99ers in the 112th Congress?

January 25, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

The American 99ers Union, a coalition of groups advocating for people who have been unemployed for more than 99 weeks, have announced that Rep. Barbara Lee [D, CA-9] will reintroduce her bill from the previous session of Congress to extend the total length of time a person can collect unemployment insurance by 14 weeks and provide the new benefits retroactively to people who have already exhausted all of their benefits. Now, the mere introduction of a bill is not in itself a newsworthy event, especially when it's being introduced by a liberal Democrat in a conservative, Republican-controlled chamber. But the 99ers Unions is suggesting that the new bill will be paid for, and, depending on the details, that could be enough to make it at least within the realm of possibility that it could see action this session.

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99ers Crisis About to Get Much Worse

December 14, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

I've been trying to make the point that the 99er problem -- people exhausting all unemployment benefits without finding a job -- is about to get much worse because we're approaching 99 weeks from the brunt of the recession unemployment spike. Congress is not planning to add more weeks of unemployment benefits and the Federal Reserve is projecting the unemployment rate to stay pretty much where it is for the next year. Putting it all together, this means that for the foreseeable future, there will no jobs and no government support for the millions of 99ers.

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The Week Ahead

December 13, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

If congressional leaders have their way, this will be the final week of the 111th Congress. President Obama and most Republicans are hoping the Democrats will end their four years in the majority by passing a full extension of the Bush tax cuts for all income levels. To that end, the Senate is set to take a big cloture vote this afternoon on an amendment to the House's bill to allow the tax cuts to expire for income over $200,000 (H.R. 4853) that would change the bill to extend all the tax cuts, lower the estate tax, extend unemployment benefits, and lots more. If today's vote passes, as is expected, the bill will be sent back to the House by Tuesday evening for follow-up action. That's where things become less clear.

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Hot on the heels of Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee's [D, TX-18] statement Thursday on the House floor that an extension of unemployment insurance for 99ers should be added to Obama's tax deal, the Congressional Black Caucus has announced that adding 99ers relief is essential for winning the support of their members. "The CBC has reached a consensus on three areas that we believe we can unite behind, Rep. Bobby Scott [D, VA-3] said at a press conference on Friday. "First, we support the 13-month extension of unemployment insurance benefits, but we all agree that we also ought to extend benefits for the so called 99ers -- those who are exhausting the benefits they have."

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Hollywood, Rum, and Tax Cuts for the Rich

December 10, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

Late Thursday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid [D, NV] unveiled the final version of the Obama tax cut deal and scheduled a vote for Monday morning to start the debate. The bill contains all of the big items I outlined earlier this week -- a two-year extension of all Bush tax cuts, one-year extension of unemployment insurance, a payroll tax holiday, etc. -- but it also contains dozens of smaller tax items designed to sweeten the deal and secure support of wavering Democrats. Many of the new tax additions are in the area of renewable energy, which David Dayen point outs is what the Bush Administration put in the TARP bill to get it through the Senate.

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House Dems Revolt, Vote Down Obama's Tax Deal

December 9, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

Dec. 9th, 10:30 pm ET  - as per the news sources cited on our micropublishing account, the Senate is adjourned until tomorrow, with no roll call votes planned. Sen. Reid announced that a first cloture vote on the tax deal will be held 3pm Monday. As of tonight, Cox radio reporter Jamie Dupree has led the way with his summary of the tax deal.

Earlier: the Senate rejected cloture for the Defense Authorization bill (S. 3454 - aka #NDAA), which includes a repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" (aka #DADT). Details of how the vote went down on the Twitter machine. 

Full #NDAA roll call details will be available Friday Dec. 10th... there's no technical reason why vote results can't be available in real-time, except that CSPAN and the Library of Congress refuse to make their data fully open. If you appreciate our user-friendly explanations of the baffling vortex that is the U.S. Senate, please make a tax-exempt donation. Updates ongoing tomorrow.

Previously: in a nearly unanimous internal caucus vote this afternoon, House Democrats made it clear that they're not going along with the tax cut deal that Obama has negotiated with Republicans. Click through for the background as we work to make the legislative wrangling of the past 24 hours more clear.

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President Obama on Monday announced the "framework" of a deal with congressional Republicans for dealing with the looming expiration of the Bush tax cuts. It's a two-year deal, and it includes a bunch of other stuff, all at a cost about $900 billion. None of it is offset, so this will be a direct increase in the deficit. Let's take a look at the specifics of what's included:

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The Week Ahead

December 5, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

Every Monday morning when Congress is in session I post the schedules for the week ahead in the Senate and the House, and I'll do that below with one big caveat: the real action in Congress this week while be the off-the-floor, behind-the-scenes wrangling on extending the Bush tax cuts. Democrats and Republicans are closing in on a deal to extend, temporarily, the Bush tax cuts for all income levels.

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Even as details leak out about a deal in the works between President Obama and both parties in Congress to temporarily extend all of the Bush tax cuts, the Senate was in session Saturday to hold votes on two Democratic proposals on how to deal with the issue. Needless to say, they both failed. But the roll call results tell us a good deal about where the debate over taxes and, more generally, the deficit stands, so let's have a look.

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By now it's a familiar story. Senate Democrats call for a unanimous consent agreement on passing legislation to extend unemployment insurance benefits and a single Republican stand up and objects, blocking the bill from passing on behalf of the entire party. It happened on Tuesday and it happened gains yesterday, this time with Sen. John Barrasso [R, WY] doing the GOP's dirty work.

On one level this is the same as ever. Republicans want any unemployment extension to be paid for by rescinding funds from the stimulus and Democrats want to fund the extension with deficit spending in order to get the maximum stimulus effect. What was especially troubling about today's Senate floor action is that it gave us more evidence that, in the midst of an unemployment crisis, some members of Congress may be confused on the basics of federal benefits extensions.

Arthur Delaney at Huffington Post reports:

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