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Two Years of Tax Cuts for One Year of Unemployment Insurance. Nothing for the 99ers

December 16, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

The Democrats’ epic cave-in on the Bush tax cuts is now complete. Late Thursday night, by a vote of 277-148, the House of Representatives approved a deal brokered by President Obama and congressional Republicans to extend, for two years, the Bush tax cuts for all income levels in exchange for a one-year extension of the filing deadline for federal unemployment insurance. Because the version passed by the House is identical to the bill passed by the Senate earlier this week, it will be sent to Obama immediately and is expected to be signed into law later today.

The bill, H.R.4853, is estimated to cost $858 billion, and is entirely financed by increasing the federal deficit. In addition to the income tax extension and the unemployment insurance, the bill includes a one-year reduction in social security taxes, a two-year reduction of the estate tax (35% with the first $5 million fully exempt), a smattering of tax cuts designed to help middle-class families, and about $55 billion in pork for special interests.

Last week, the House passed slimmed-down version of the bill that would have let the Bush tax rates expire for all income above $250,000 and extend them for all middle and lower-income families, but that plan was rejected by Republicans in the Senate. On Wednesday, the Senate went ahead and passed the full Bush-tax-cuts extension. House Dems had already held an internal caucus vote showing near unanimous disapproval of the Senate bill, and on Thursday they revolted and caused the bill to be pulled from the floor for 7 hours. In the end, however, the majority of House Democrats voted for the Senate bill because it we the only option they were going to get from the Democratic leadership for keeping tax rates for the middle class from going up on January 1st.

Conspicuously missing from the bill is an extension of unemployment insurance for “99ers,” unemployed workers who have exhausted all of their available benefits and are still unemployed. This is a mounting crisis in the U.S, with millions of people who lost their jobs in the deepest part of the recession set to exhaust all government support and face a job market with a steady 9%+ unemployment rate. The Congressional Black Caucus talked about pushing for 99er relief in the bill for a second, and, according to OC commenters, the topic came up several times in the House debate before the bill was passed. But, in the end, the leadership just did not encourage the 99er advocates at all, and the bill was passed without even having a 99er-related amendment formally proposed at any point in the legislative process.

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