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Democrats Hunker Down to Help the Unemployed

June 17, 2008 - by Donny Shaw

With the recent jump in the jobless rate, congressional Democrats are serious about extending unemployment insurance benefits. After running into opposition from Republicans and conservative Democrats in all the various ways they’ve tried to get the extension passed, the Democratic leaders are putting it back in the place it will be safest: the war funding bill. Once Congress passes that bill it will be up to President Bush to either accept the $162 billion in war money with the unemployment extension attached, or veto the whole thing and risk further delays in getting money and resources to U.S. troops in Iraq.

The AP reports on the Democrats’ latest strategy:

>In a challenge to President Bush, House Democratic leaders have decided to retain a 13-week extension of unemployment benefits as part of long-overdue legislation to pay for the war in Iraq.
>The latest tentative agreement calls for the House to retain the unemployment benefits extension, despite a Bush veto threat, along with a major bill to beef up college benefits under the GI Bill for returning veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan.
>In exchange, the Senate is expected to drop more than $10 billion in additional appropriations for programs such as heating subsidies for the poor, wildfire fighting, road and bridge repair and help for the Gulf Coast.
>Reid spokesman Jim Manley said Monday that the Senate would take up the bill after the House passes it this week and try to send it on to the president’s desk. But Republicans are expected to block the measure until a tax surcharge on the wealthy — used by the House to “pay for” the 10-year, $50 billion-plus cost of the increase in GI college benefits — is stripped out.

For more on the surtax Democrats were hoping to include in the bill, see this post on the Citizens for Tax Justice blog, which explains that “in 2007 only 0.3 percent of taxpayers were rich enough to be affected.”

We’ll be following this bill as things develop, as will, no doubt, the savvy commenters on the OpenCongress page for the unemployment bill. That bill, H.R.5749, has been the hottest bill on OpenCongress over the last few months, with more than 16,000 comments from people fighting to get it passed. The community there is definitely the best place to look for the most up to date, breaking news on this front. And If you are hoping for Congress to extend unemployment insurance, you should join in the discussion on that page and help to build political support for getting it enacted in the supplemental.

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