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Midweek Unemployment Extension Update

November 17, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

UPDATE 2: The bill failed, 258-154 (290 votes were needed under the rule). The Democrats can bring this up again for a vote under regular order (requiring only a simple majority for passage), but it will be subject to amendments and a Republican motion to recommit.

UPDATE: House Democrats have put a three-month unemployment extension on the calendar for a vote today (Thursday). Read up on the bill, add a comment, and place your vote here:

H.R. 6419 – Emergency Unemployment Compensation Continuation Act

The bill is being considered under the expedited “suspension of the rules” process, which does not allow for amendments or motions to recommit that could trip up the bill’s passage. However, it requires a 2/3rds supermajority, so the Democrats will need all their members plus 35 Republicans to vote in favor. The last time they tried to extend unemployment under suspension of the rules, they failed, 261-155. With the bill not having a revenue offset, passage is unlikely. But we’ll see…. Check back for updates.

Original post below…

If Congress doesn’t pass an extension of unemployment insurance benefits this week, the filing deadline will expire and the long-term unemployed will start seeing their insurance payments disappear. Two million will be left without government support by the end of the year. We’re now more than half way through the week, so what’s the status with Congress getting this done?

Speaker Nancy Pelosi [D, CA-8] says the House is planning to hold a vote on extending unemployment benefits sometime before the session is up. And today Democrats introduced a bill that would extend benefits for three months, essentially keeping benefits alive until early in the next, more heavily Republican, session. The real problem is the Senate, where there is currently no plan for holding a vote on extending benefits. Senate Democrats only have 58 votes for passing an extension (all D’s except Ben Nelson [NE] and no R’s), but they would need 60 votes to beat an inevitable Republican filibuster. So far, they can’t figure out a way to round up the last few votes.

One emerging strategy for getting this through the Senate seems to be doing the unemployment extension and the Bush tax cuts together in one bill. Some reports recently have suggested that a temporary extension of all of the Bush tax cuts could be linked to an unemployment extension, possibly for up to one year. Extended unemployment benefits and the Bush tax cuts for income above $250,000 both would add about $70 billion to the deficit annually, so it would be an ironic solution to an impasse that is based maily on concerns about the deficit. But I guess that’s compromise, or something. This strategy is probably the unemployed’s best chance for securing a longer extension than whatHouse Dems are proposing.

Either way, this is not going to get done before Congress leaves on Friday for their Thanksgiving vacation. That means benefits will lapse, at least temporarily, and people who exhaust their current benefits  tier will not be eligible for additional weeks.

On the exhaustee front, the news, unfortunately, is much worse. Dave Dayen reporting from a call with Sen. Jack Reed [D, RI]:

Reed basically closed the door on any Tier V funding above 99 weeks of unemployment. Large numbers of the unemployed fall into that long-term category. “Our focus is maintaining the current system, and even that is a real challenge,” Reed said.

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