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Black Caucus Opposes Tax Deal, Wants Relief for 99ers

December 12, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

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.”

View the full press conference here.

The deal brokered by Obama and congressional Republicans would extend the four tiers of unemployment benefits that expired on December 1st, but would not create a new tier of benefits for those who have moved through those tiers and are still unemployed. The four tiers provided up to 99 weeks of benefits in some states, and we’re now more than 99 weeks out from the brunt of the ‘08 financial crisis. That means that, before the tiers expired, a wave of people who lost their jobs as a direct result of Wall Street recklessness and regulatory incompetence began being dropped off the backend of the federal insurance programs. There’s no official estimate of how many 99ers there are already, but most estimates put the number around 5 million.

The Congressional Black Caucus has 42 members, which might not be enough to force a change in the tax deal. If all House Republicans vote for the bill, only 39 Democratic votes would be needed to secure passage. In September, 31 conservative Blue Dog Democrats wrote a letter to the leadership advocating for all of the Bush tax cuts to be extended, so they can be counted as likely yeses. According to the Wall Street Journal, the Obama Administration is currently working to round up the final votes they need by lobbying lame duck Democrats in the House who lost re-election in November and are no longer accountable to voters.

Ultimately, whether or not additional weeks for 99ers can be added to the bill is up to Speaker Rep. Nancy Pelosi [D, CA-8] and the House Democratic leadership. The Senate is expected to pass the bill early this week, and Pelosi and crew have the choice of passing it as is, or passing it with an amendment. Even if Pelosi goes with an amendment, it’s possible that it would address other items — the estate tax or the length of the extension of the existing unemployment tiers — and not seek to add anything for the 99ers. As the WSJ reports today, Pelosi is “walking a perilous path” by attempting to satisfy her Democrats, who strongly oppose the deal, while at the same time trying to shepherd some form the deal into law so the tax cut debate is not pushed back to the next, more Republican, session of Congress.

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