Bunning agrees to deal, ends hold on unemployment benefits extension

I’m surprised Reid was willing to offer him something. This thing was (almost) pure win for Democrats.

In the end Bunning agreed to a deal allowing him one vote on an amendment to pay for the bill’s $10 billion cost. That proposal was offered by Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) last Thursday at the start of his filibuster, but Bunning rejected it because he feared his amendment would not pass.

Reid has also agreed to give Bunning two votes on amendments to a larger, one-year extension bill that is currently under consideration in the Senate…

Thousands of federal highway employees who had been furloughed as a result of Bunning’s filibuster will likely be able to return to work later this week, and unemployment insurance checks will be sent to recipients after several days of delay.

As Ed explained earlier, Bunning wasn’t objecting to extending benefits by $10 billion, he was objecting to how Democrats were willing to violate their own pay-go principles by refusing to offset the outlay right away. A victory for fiscal responsibility! And yet…

[I]n recessions, the length of time for which people need “temporary” assistance stretches out. That means that the government has to respond with temporary benefit extensions. These aren’t just good for the people who are unemployed; it’s also good for us. Unemployment assistance is one of the “automatic fiscal stabilizers” that all but the most hard-nosed conservative economists agree help smooth the business cycle in modern industrial countries. Indeed, it’s one of the most effective forms of stimulus we have.

Even if you think the government needs a plan to get its house in order, why on earth is Bunning making a stand on this issue? It’s political poison–even the Republican base knows people who are out of work. It’s terrible economic policy–suddenly cutting off the taps would have nasty knock-on effects on the economy. And while it’s a lot of money, it’s one of the few government programs that pretty much unequivocally improve the net welfare of the American people. If Bunning wants to hold up something, how about finding some useless defense appropriations to complain about?

According to McClatchy, fully 1.2 million people have been waiting for their checks. Like I say, if I were Reid, I would have thrown up my hands and claimed that I and my new 1.2 million friends were at the GOP’s mercy until Bunning relented. Let’s poll this one! Politics or principle?

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