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Unemployed Get Organized for a Lame-Duck Fight

October 19, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

The last time Congress tried to extend unemployment insurance it took them 52 days to overcome Republican opposition and pass a bill, causing a six-week lapse in payments for millions of long-term unemployed (H.R.4213). The time before that it took 28 day and caused a ten-day lapse in payments (H.R.4851). Before that, Congress spent 43 days on a bill to add extra weeks, leaving millions of long-term unemployed without a lifeline for more than a month (H.R.3548).

The current federal unemployment insurance extension, which serves as a lifeline for approximately 8 million long-term unemployed workers right now, is scheduled to expire on November 30th. The Democrats are saying they will take up another extension bill when they come back into session after the mid-terms, but there will only be a dozen or so legislative days in the lame-duck session, and only four days between when they reconvene on Nov. 15th and when they adjourn for Thanksgiving on Nov. 19th. If recent history tells us anythings, it’s going to be a huge struggle for Congress to pass an extension before adjourning for the year in mid-December, let alone get it passed and signed into law it before benefits begin expiring on November 30th.

In the past, unemployed folks really only got active on getting extension bills passed through Congress after benefits had expired. This time, the National Employment Law Project is taking the smart step of getting out ahead by launching, a multi-faceted campaign designed to rally support for an extension bill well before benefits expire so that there’s an activist infrastructure in place to push Congress on this the moment they come back into session.

You can sign their petition to Congress here, and, in addition to adding your name to their message, you’ll be kept in the loop as Congress comes back and call-in days and lobbying campaigns ramp up.

There are about 20 major pieces of legislation being considered for floor time in the lame-duck session, and it’s hard to predict what the dynamic in Congress is going to be after the election. For example, what happened if Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid [D, NV], who controls what gets voted on in the Senate, is defeated in the mid-terms? Does he scramble to pass a last legacy bill on food safety or renewable energy instead of spending the final days of his 24 year career fighting for a temporary extension of benefits for the unemployed folks that he has already spent a good deal of time fighting for? Incentives and motivations will change significantly depending n what happens on Nov. 2, so, if you care about there being a lifeline for the millions of long-term unemployed after Thanksgiving, the best thing you can do right now is start making as much noise about this as you can.

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