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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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Displaying 31-43 of 43 total comments.

Nodlee87 11/30/2010 4:49am
in reply to barbara818 Nov 30, 2010 4:47am


sontagkc1 11/30/2010 2:09am

The onslaught of Bankruptcies and Bad Debt will be more than the banks can handle. I have tried for 18 months, sent out well over 1000 resumes and I have had 6 interviews and no offers in all that time, I have a great job record, I am 48 years old, I was laid off after 10 years on my last job.

joeroseGARSEEYA 11/29/2010 10:24pm

Simple as this…. DEMOCRAT OR REPUBLICAN what does that have to do with having a heart? While they are at home cozy and warm with food in the fridge( probably take out) along with a nice great big christmas tree and tons of gifts; Most unemployed people are without. I have been applying for jobs already going on 5 months. Im still unemployed with no typeof income at all! I am willing to except an $8.00 an hr job and cannot even get one… Im starting to think USA= Unemployed Sorry @$$es… sorry just venting!

sontagkc1 11/30/2010 2:06am

My suggestion is that if they can not get an extension passed, then pass a discount or complete eliminated taxes on unemployment. This would help the unemployed out alot with out spending. If you had taxes taken out of unemployment you would get back more money, if you didn’t you would not have to pay taxes on it, last year they had a measley discount of the first 2400 was not taxable, this year they need to up that or not tax it all. That is stimulas money back into the economy for most of us.

lspellegrino 11/30/2010 5:31am
in reply to sontagkc1 Nov 30, 2010 2:06am

Won’t do me and many others any good! I am out of benefits.

Adambomb 11/30/2010 9:19am
in reply to michael_neelands Nov 30, 2010 9:06am

Thanks for serving our country.

Adambomb 11/30/2010 9:17am

I hope that they see this and hear it loud and clear. THEY ARE F#$@*^% THIS COUNTRY UP SO GOOD!!! I cant belive that theses politicians are going to do this to the american people on christmas no less. I wish they could exp. the kind of christmas that so many are going to have, instead or fates are decided by people who aren’t even effected by it. I will never respect a soul-less government. All they do is try and blame Obama, he walked into a s#*t storm created by the rep. There pointing the finger when they got three fingers pointed back at them.

beenblue 11/30/2010 9:39am

WANT MONEY FOR UNEMPLOYMENT !!! cut the defense budget back to pre 9/11 levels.
I`m not afraid of those outside our government hiding in caves half a world away, I`m afraid of those in our government disguised as representatives of our government, who serve the few, and terrorize the masses with wars and rumors of wars, so as to feed the insatiable appetite of the Pentagon and it`s contractors.( WE ARE THE OWNERS OF W.M.Ds) and I`m sure we have enough for now. It`s time to fix problems, not create them. We can no longer ignore the defense budget that takes in two thirds of government revenue, and only produces shiny “SYMBOLS OF FEAR.” The world should admire our compassion towards one another here in America, not view us as Imperial America who ignores their own, while spreading capitalism, not democracy abroad.

Spam Comment

beenblue 11/30/2010 10:51am

And as a last suggestion, we are in need of a new flag that represents our currant moral and ethical climate, and I suggest the skull and cross bones to fly on Government and bank buildings. The least measure of honesty, as our Government has turned it`s back on the people of the red, white, and blue, and who served under that flag on other Nations shores, generation after generation in hopes of keeping the “American dream” alive for all Americans, generation after generation. The American dream was not supposed to be a one way street that led to the few on WALL ST. & K ST. supported by our representatives in Washington. To big to fail, is the same as to fat to diet. If my unemployment is a problem, then I suggest they deal with it since they created it in the first place. Unemployment is like car insurance, we paid into it, you hit me, now fix it, and quit blaming me for your problems. I`m tired of being ignored and made to feel inferior, YOU BROKE IT YOU OWN IT.!!!

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 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."

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.

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