House/Senate showdown coming over unemployment benefits?
posted at 3:21 pm on March 17, 2014 by Dustin Siggins
In 2008, at the height of the recession, Congress created an unemployment benefits program that was supposed to be temporary. Like many “temporary” programs, it has now become near-permanent, at least in the eyes of most Democrats and some Republicans. And while there has been no new extension since the end of 2013, due to Republican resistance in the Senate and House, it looks like a deal was struck last week that may get benefits back up and running retroactively, and apply through the end of May.
Five Republican senators have signed on to the measure, which would apply the benefits retroactively and pay for the roughly $9.5 billion cost through an accounting gimmick known as pension smoothing, raised custom fees in 2024 and an adjustment to payment procedures for single-employer pension plans.
Early indications are that those five — Sens. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Dean Heller (R-Nev.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) — will be the only Republicans to support the bill. A spokesman for Sen. Dan Coats (R-Ind.), who supported early compromises to pass unemployment insurance, said that he would not back this bill because it lacked “credible reforms.”
The bill will end payments to millionaires, thanks to Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK), but that will only save $20 to $30 million annually.
This is pretty bad news — the nation needs budget cuts and tax reform, not increases in both — but it looks like the House may ride to the rescue, at least temporarily:
House Speaker John Boehner said Friday he thinks a bipartisan Senate deal to renew expired benefits for the long-term unemployed isn’t feasible, a remark that suggested the agreement is in trouble in the Republican-run House.
Asked Friday by The Associated Press what he thought of the Senate compromise, he said, “You mean the one that can’t be implemented?”
Asked if his comment meant he didn’t like the measure or that he wouldn’t bring it to the House floor for debate, Boehner, R-Ohio, said, “I didn’t say that.”
An aide to the speaker later said that Boehner believes making the jobless benefits retroactive to when that program expired in late December, which the Senate deal would do, isn’t workable.
Boehner is also unhappy that the Senate proposal lacks provisions creating jobs, the aide said, a condition Boehner has said must be part of any plan extending the benefits. The aide spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to publicly discuss Boehner’s comments.
Unfortunately, Boehner’s resistance may not be enough, if the Senate passes the bill. In an election year, with the word “compromise” being thrown around because Democrats are “only” applying the benefits until May, and Republicans already being viewed as the party of the rich, short-term political survival may win the day.
Nearly five years after the Great Recession ended, unemployment is still high and the American people are still suffering greatly from the government-induced economic crash and subsequent weak recovery. With the help of the mainstream and liberal media — yes, a somewhat redundant phrase — Democrats have been able to pretend that their policies are good for the nation. Meanwhile, Republicans continue to react to Democratic initiatives, not stand up around a cohesive regulatory, tax, and spending reform package that would get the nation finally up and running again.
And the GOP continues to suffer, as its attempts at Democratic-lite proposals are matched by an inability to initiate with sound policy proposals that would inspire conservatives and moderates alike, and take the advantage from Democrats.
In his latest column — a true must-read — George Will gave excellent guidance to Republicans on how spending in agriculture, food stamps, and Federal Reserve policies makes income inequality worse. May it give them guidance on how to find real solutions, not join Democrats in continuing the high-spending, government-growing status quo.
Dustin Siggins is the Washington, D.C. Correspondent for Lifesitenews.com and formerly the primary blogger with Tea Party Patriots. He is a co-author of the forthcoming book, Bankrupt Legacy: The Future of the Debt-Paying Generation. His work has been published by numerous online and print publications, including USA Today, Roll Call, Hot Air, Huffington Post, Mediaite, and First Things.