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Unemployment benefits to pass, but all alone

Democrats are set to pass an extension of unemployment benefits today. The presence of Carte Goodwin, Sen. Robert Byrd's temporary replacement, gives them the 60 votes necessary to break the Republicans' -- and Ben Nelson's -- filibuster of the bill.

But victory obscures defeat. Republicans managed to take a jobs bill, weaken it to an unemployment benefits and state and local relief bill, weaken that to an unemployment benefits bill, and then weaken that bill. Annie Lowrey -- unmarried partner, etc. -- reports:

The bill does not include an extension of the $25-a-week Federal Additional Compensation funds, tacked onto many unemployment checks. It also does not include any of the other provisions originally included in or proposed for the jobs bill or extenders package: It does not close tax loopholes, or provide Medicaid funding to states, or include funds to keep teachers and other state employees working. It also does not create an additional fifth tier of benefits; federal extensions only continue in states with higher than an 8 percent unemployment rate, and the maximum weeks of state and federal benefits remains ninety-nine.

Republicans in the Senate, in other words, have won the fight over further spending on job creation. The argument has narrowed to unemployment benefits, and Democrats can't even reliably win those votes.

By Ezra Klein  |  July 20, 2010; 9:40 AM ET
 
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Comments

Yup.

The majority has spoken and Congress is finally beginning to listen. Few are opposed to extension of unemployment handouts but many are opposed to the sundry other handouts included in former incarnations of the "unemployment extension" bill. Many more voters are opposed to the subversion of process -- the propaganda efforts -- which concealed the numerous extras folded into what should have been a straightforward insurance benefits issue.

What a joyous day it is!

Posted by: rmgregory | July 20, 2010 10:05 AM | Report abuse

A majority of 40?

Posted by: s_leisz | July 20, 2010 10:10 AM | Report abuse

Ezra is the first in the mainstream media to admit WHY Republicans have been opposed to an extension of unemployment benefits, until now. To this point, Democrats have been playing the game of loading bills with other pork and payoffs to key constituents (i.e., the funds "to keep teachers working" was a bailout for teacher unions, not for teacher salaries). Then, when the GOP blocked the bill because of all the Democrat pet-project add-ons, Obama and the Dems played the "see-Republicans-are-mean-and-want-unemployed-people-to-starve" card.

Thanks Ezra, for at least exposing the underlying lies of the Democrats surrounding passage of "unemployment benefits".....

Posted by: dbw1 | July 20, 2010 10:11 AM | Report abuse

"Annie Lowrey -- unmarried partner, etc"

And when are you planning on making an honest woman of her, Ezra?

Stop living in sin. You're setting a bad example for all the innocent young policy wonks that look up to you.

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | July 20, 2010 10:59 AM | Report abuse

to be more precise, what the gop has "won" is the acceptance of a supermajority vote requirement for everything.

and of all the puzzling aspects of obama's rigid centrism, it is the willingness to remain silent in the face of a supermajority vote requirement for everything that is the most difficult to understand.

as for rmgregory: assuming he's correct, we'll see a unanimous vote today. any takers? money on line, rmgregory?

because i've got a different assumption: the gop has read the research. they know the worse the economy looks the better for them, and with admirable (albeit short-sighted) discipline, they have worked very, very hard to keep the economy looking worse.

ps for rm gregory: you personally can, of course, show us how you favored john kerry's attempt to pay for the iraq war rather than run up the deficit even further during growth years, can't you? otherwise you do realize that you are no different from the gop members whose purported rationale you are endorsing: they favor deficits when they are a bad idea and oppose them when they are a good idea because they don't really care about deficits at all.

Posted by: howard16 | July 20, 2010 11:15 AM | Report abuse

The HR4213-SA4425 bill before Congress today, July 20, does NOT extend the $25/week FAC payment for new claimants. The biggest problem with this omission is that MILLIONS of Americans who have been able to find only part-time work are losing the $25/wk. The bill does include a "fix" for some part-time workers--but only for those whose weekly benefit amounts go down by $100 or 25%. The rest of us--MILLIONS OF US--are forced to open "new claims," and as a result not only does our weekly benefit amount go down (for example by $93/wk.) but we also LOSE the $25 FAC payment!! We accepted jobs, any jobs we could find, and now we are being punished by losing the $25 FAC--while those who did not work at all will continue to get the $25 FAC!! This is so unfair!!

Posted by: markgoode | July 20, 2010 11:24 AM | Report abuse

dbw1, yes, before it was a jobs bill to help stimulate the economy, now it's an unemployment benefits extension.

Posted by: MosBen | July 20, 2010 11:31 AM | Report abuse

We will be living with the effects of these scorched earth GOP tactics for years, if not a generation. In CA we will have a school year that is 50 days shorter than the Koreans because the wealthy won't let taxes go back to where they were under Pete Wilson. Tech execs would rather hire immigrants than pay taxes to educate our own people. Young people who can't find jobs may never get a decent start on being full members of society.

I can't believe the selfishness and shortsightedness that the GOP embodies and some of its adherents here so gleefully proclaim.

Posted by: Mimikatz | July 20, 2010 11:41 AM | Report abuse

Out here in CA, I too was getting the maximum unemployment benefit ($450/week) but I took a low quality part time job in order to not refuse any work. Then when I had to file a new claim to get the federal extension, it only considered the low quality part time job income. So assuming the bill passes today, I'll start getting 1/3 of what I was getting ($150/week) until I can find a job. If I had not taken the part time job, I think I would still be at the max level. No good deed goes unpunished...

Posted by: mpsmith1 | July 20, 2010 12:24 PM | Report abuse

It is going to appear to be a great day and that we are saved. When the reality is NO TIER 5 has been created! So now we are only saving some of the people and in the process hiding the fact that others are losing everything they've got and going homeless. Guess you won't have to pay attention to that till a large enough number get to that point. In the mean time how many lives will be lost?

Posted by: toddmpire | July 20, 2010 12:28 PM | Report abuse

All the issues you cite are budget related, so why could the bill not have been passed through reconciliation with 51 votes? Just curious.

Posted by: guesswhosue | July 20, 2010 12:37 PM | Report abuse

republican willingness to support legislation that inflates the reported unemployment rate so long as it doesn't stimulate the economy is fairly entertaining, given that its an election year with the dems in power.

Posted by: eggnogfool | July 20, 2010 12:41 PM | Report abuse

If job creation had been the number one priority from the start (like it should have been) instead of wastung time on the health care bill, maybe extensions wouldn't be necessary today.... Those of us unemployed are scraping to get by and until something is done to create "real" new jobs (particularly in the high tech manufacturing sector) then unemployment is the only answer to keep us afloat...barely...

Posted by: LarryD2 | July 20, 2010 12:58 PM | Report abuse

Health care reform, well, health insurance reform, was necessary and they struck while the iron was hot but not at its hottest (before Kennedy's death). But the stimulus was clearly not enough. Remember the arbitrary $1T number that got whittled down? What happened to the economic stimulus bill was the same thing happened to this unemployment benefit extension bill, just on a smaller scale. The writing was on the wall back then. The GOP was going going to 4-corners and stall. It they didn't go bulldog and start talking tough back than like they are now. What if the the stimulus had a bigger jobs bill portion? The naysayers would be harping over gov't created jobs but at least those people would be working.

Just wondering, do the unemployed turn out during mid-term elections?

Posted by: tuber | July 20, 2010 1:23 PM | Report abuse

"The bill does not include an extension of the $25-a-week Federal Additional Compensation funds, tacked onto many unemployment checks. It also does not include any of the other provisions originally included in or proposed for the jobs bill or extenders package: It does not close tax loopholes, or provide Medicaid funding to states, or include funds to keep teachers and other state employees working. It also does not create an additional fifth tier of benefits; federal extensions only continue in states with higher than an 8 percent unemployment rate, and the maximum weeks of state and federal benefits remains ninety-nine."

Nothing prevents the Democrats from using some of the $95.2 billion in existing unassigned stimulus money to fund these other items.

http://voices.washingtonpost.com/ezra-klein/2010/07/research_desk_responds_how_fas.html

Posted by: jnc4p | July 20, 2010 1:27 PM | Report abuse

guesswhoseue, reconciliation can only be used to reduce the deficit, and the whole point here is to increase it.

Posted by: howard16 | July 20, 2010 1:32 PM | Report abuse

I was not aware that certain programs were not going to be extended. This shows that these deals for "bipartisanship" in the end can hurt its overall effectiveness. Good eye Mr. Klein. If anyone is interested I have a blog that looks at the big picture. In fact, I have a new post out today about the movie "Inception," philosophical inquiry, and politics. Check it out!
http://wwwstangblog.blogspot.com/

Posted by: PowerWalkBlog | July 20, 2010 2:11 PM | Report abuse

"guesswhoseue, reconciliation can only be used to reduce the deficit, and the whole point here is to increase it."

General question - I thought the Republicans passed the 2001 tax cuts through reconciliation. Is that option gone now? Suppose the Democrats increase unemployment benefits in a theoretically budget neutral way over a decade ($40 billion deficit increase now, $45 billion increase in taxes/spending cuts in 2015). Would that work?

Posted by: justin84 | July 20, 2010 2:16 PM | Report abuse

Can you believe it?

If you and I ran our household budget like our Government is running ours... NONE OF US COULD GET A LOAN.

But our government just barrows more money (where does it come from?) and sinks us deeper and deeper in debt.

When the USA falls... all you unemployed workers who voted for hope and change... will get what you deserve.

Posted by: btrask3 | July 20, 2010 2:55 PM | Report abuse

I hope the unemployed remember that the republicians tried to block them from getting their benefits come election time. The truth is that the economy desperately needs some stimulus right now and unemployment benefits are the most effective stimulus there is. The money gets spent immediately by the unemployed and enters the economy.

Everyone is a free market capitalist republican until something bad happens to them. Then you flip and show your true colors; who's going to help me?

We need to support the American people and invest in America to make it strong.

Posted by: GetReal16 | July 20, 2010 3:37 PM | Report abuse

GetReal16, you said, "I hope the unemployed remember that the republicians tried to block them from getting their benefits come election time."

Honey, it is "their" benefits. It is other people's money the government is asking for. Benefits are not a Right, they are, at best, at privilege.

I am an Unemployment Benefit Exhaustee, commonly called a 99er, though for various reasons, I received about 50 weeks of benefits for the 108 weeks I have been unemployed.

I will be homeless in 9 days. I have lost in the last two years, my home and my life's savings. I am 53 years old, have an Sc.B in Economics and have been employed since I was 15 years old.

Even WPA work camps would be better than what I am personally facing in the coming weeks.

Posted by: liberty_rocks | July 20, 2010 6:05 PM | Report abuse

justin84, my memory for the details is a little dim, but in general in 2001, the gop majority fired the parliamentarian for making a "reconciliation can only be used for deficit reduction" and tempoarily (iirc) lifted the rule, but it is now back in force (don't recall the details), and the dems don't have the toughness of the gop to just fire the parlimanetarian.

btrask3: the government's books and your household's books aren't the same and you're only going to confuse yourself if you think they are. by the way, the people who are loaning us money are the people who are exporting their goods to us, and right now, they show every sign of being perfectly happy to keep on going....

Posted by: howard16 | July 20, 2010 6:38 PM | Report abuse

"justin84, my memory for the details is a little dim, but in general in 2001, the gop majority fired the parliamentarian for making a "reconciliation can only be used for deficit reduction" and tempoarily (iirc) lifted the rule, but it is now back in force (don't recall the details), and the dems don't have the toughness of the gop to just fire the parlimanetarian."

Howard16,
Would the $40 billion of spending now, offset with $45 billion of cutting/taxing in the future not qualify? Technically you are cutting the deficit, even if you expect future Congresses to renege.

Posted by: justin84 | July 20, 2010 7:56 PM | Report abuse

An inconvenient truth for conservatives:

"During the administration of President George W. Bush, the gross debt increased from $5.6 trillion in January 2001 to $10.7 trillion by December 2008..."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_public_debt

There is a great chart there too.
For me, the sudden right-wing obsession over debt is specious at best.

Posted by: Narvid | July 20, 2010 8:08 PM | Report abuse

justin84: i'm no expert on the relevant rules, but i suspect it would.

you still then have to get to the question of will.

Posted by: howard16 | July 20, 2010 8:35 PM | Report abuse

justin84, thinking about it a little more, it would, i suspect, have to be a future tax and/or cut that could credibly be scored now through the legislation itself, not just a promise to cut in the future.

but again, you're right in thinking aloud that this probably could be invented if there was sufficient will to do so....

Posted by: howard16 | July 20, 2010 8:45 PM | Report abuse

Gotta love how Ezra doesn't even try to have this post make any logical sense. The Democrats broke the filibuster and thus could have passed any bill they wanted. Pretending that the bill was weakened to suit the Republicans is simply at war with the facts.

Passing a narrow, weak bill was 100% a Democratic decision, to hold Democratic votes.

Posted by: tomtildrum | July 21, 2010 12:27 AM | Report abuse

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