After extending unemployment benefits out to two years, some have begun to question the wisdom of perpetually extending the cutoff of federal aid for the unemployed. Many more object to additional deficit spending to fund it. Democrats, however, refused to compromise on the question, even after outgoing Senator George Voinovich (R-OH) offered to split the difference:
The Senate failed once again late Wednesday to advance a plan to restore jobless benefits for people out of work more than six months, leaving millions of unemployed workers in limbo until after the July 4 recess.
The measure fell one vote shy of the 60 needed to end a Republican filibuster. Sen. George V. Voinovich (R-Ohio) said he was prepared to provide that vote, but that Democrats had rejected his request to pay for at least half of the $34 billion measure with unspent funds from last year’s stimulus package.
“Democrats are more interested in having this issue to demagogue for political gamesmanship than they are in simply passing the benefits extension,” Voinovich, who is retiring, said in a statement. “I came to the table with a fair compromise and the ball is in their court.”
Earlier, the AP reported it as Republicans refusing to fund jobless benefits, which gets it exactly wrong. They later edited the passage to note only that Republicans blocked the bill that would have authorized the payment of benefits past the current cutoff date of two years, but earlier had written that Republicans “opposed” any such extension. The Washington Post gets it right.
I disagree with Voinovich’s compromise, but it did have a salutary impact. It made clear which side of the debate wants to hold the jobless hostage to ideology. The unused Porkulus funds have already been authorized and would make sense to use in this effort, since Democrats have argued all along that jobless benefits were an important part of rescuing the economy. However, those funds already got earmarked for pet projects of Congressional Democrats and the wish list of progressives over the last 20 years. They care more about their pork-barrel projects than they do about providing extra benefits for the jobless. Harry Reid’s argument over the definition of “emergency” is a red herring.
We should not be expanding deficit spending any further than the Democrats in Congress have already created with its massive expansion of annual federal spending during its time in control of Congress. The federal government should use the funds already authorized for use in the economic crisis to pay for any expansion of jobless benefits if that’s the policy they choose. Adding more debt to the US only extends the economic crisis, making the expansion of deficits a self-destructive cycle. Republicans did the right thing by standing on that principle. Let Democrats choose between their pork and the constituents that Reid loves slightly less than his pet projects.