Monday, November 22, 2010

Unemployment Benefits Extension: "Method to Democrats' Unemployment Madness?"

That's the headline at US News & World Report.
The New York Times goes with "House Republicans Block Unemployment Benefits Extension".
Here's USNWR last Friday:

Yesterday, the lame-duck Democrat-controlled House defeated another extension of unemployment benefits by a vote of 258-154, which was short of the two-thirds majority needed for passage under special fast-track rules the Democratic leadership imposed. According to the Wall Street Journal, Majority leader Steny Hoyer said the bill would be brought back up again on November 29, the day before the benefits are set to expire.

So the Democrats are continuing with their strategy of fast-tracking the bill over and over, forcing Republicans to repeatedly vote against it. They may think this is a good idea rhetorically—"The Republican Party doesn't care whether you have a Christmas or a way to fund your mortgage or a way to put food on the table for the next three months," said Democratic Rep. Jim McDermott of Washington, in just one of many similar soundbites—but that message seems to be backfiring. They've tried it every time these extensions have come up, trundling out tired "Republicans-are-mean" press releases. Instead, voters got the message that as difficult as choices like these are, Republicans are not interested in adding to the deficit. And that led to the Big Shellacking.

Current unemployment benefits—even before this extension—provide federal funding for up to 99 weeks to laid-off workers. That's almost two years of "temporary" unemployment benefits, not paid for in any way. At what point do federal unemployment benefits become welfare? Most voters know that at some point, we've got to start paying for what is slowly becoming another federal entitlement program. The voters may be ahead of some of the politicians on this one. [Read more about unemployment.]

The Democrats in leadership made a choice: they could have brought this unfunded bill up under slower, regular rules needing a simple majority vote, or they could do it under special fast-track rules that needed a two-thirds vote. If they had chosen the former, it would have passed. But they chose the latter, and it failed....MORE
And the Times' The Caucus blog:
The House failed to pass an extension unemployment insurance benefits for another three months Thursday afternoon. The vote was 258 to 154, short of the two-thirds needed for passage.
Republicans have sought to block the extension of benefits before, arguing that the spending should be offset by savings elsewhere.

Representative Steny Hoyer of Maryland, the Democratic majority leader, said his party will continue to push for the extension when lawmakers return on November 29. Without an extension, benefits will expire on November 30.

“Today, Republicans blocked an extension of unemployment insurance for thousands of families who have lost jobs through no fault of their own,’ Mr. Hoyer said. “As a result, they can expect their insurance to begin to run out just after Thanksgiving weekend. Republicans’ opposition to this bill was bad for families across their own districts, and worse for our economy as a whole.”...MORE