The unemployment compromise of the compromise is finally finished

As Allahpundit predicted last night, the compromise of the two previous compromises over federal enhancements to unemployment benefits was finally passed late in the evening. Of course, that only happened after King Joseph of Farmington sampled every Republican and Democratic proposal like Goldilocks checking out all of the bowls of porridge in the bears’ cottage. Midnight Mitch tried to throw a wrench into the works by calling to adjourn the Senate until this morning, but that measure failed as well. The final deal will offer $300 per week through September 6. That’s a bit slimmer than the original $400 per week through early October but more generous than the GOP offer of $300 expiring in July. The House version offered $400 but ended in August, though presumably, Nancy Pelosi has already signed off on this compromise as well. Additionally, the first $10,200 of unemployment benefits will be tax-free. That makes for a pretty comfortable security blanket for the unemployed, particularly in states that have lower caps on UI benefits. (NBC News)

On the verge of passing a $1.9 trillion Covid-19 relief bill, Senate Democrats spent more than nine hours hammering out a deal that will make the jobless benefits less generous and adjust the time they will be available.

Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia appeared to be the cause of the delay after he resisted an earlier provision on unemployment benefits. Manchin, a moderate, has emerged as the Democrat who’s most willing to buck his leadership, and the party cannot afford to lose a single vote.

The Friday night deal will provide federal unemployment benefits at $300 a week and expire September 6, according to a Democratic aide.

Chuck Schumer promised that the Senate would now “power through” the rest of the massive COVID relief package and get it to Joe Biden’s desk before the current tranche of federal unemployment benefits expires later this month. They already hit one significant delay when Senator Ron Johnson (R) forced a reading of all 628 pages of the bill aloud, a process that took nearly eleven hours.

Unlike many other aspects of this massive pork package and liberal wish list, I really don’t have a problem with the enhanced unemployment benefits. The vast majority of people currently out of work are not unemployed because their employer failed to succeed or because of their own shortcomings. They’re on the unemployment line because their own government shut down their place of work. Helping them get by until this madness finally draws to a close is not an unreasonable expenditure of taxpayer funds.

If we’re going to carp about anything in this deal, it should be the lack of any reasonable caps on the maximum benefits based on the worker’s previous salary. Particularly given the situation out on the streets these days, nobody is going to return to their old job if they can make as much, if not more than they were previously earning while sitting at home. A limit of 80% of their previous wages would have been a decent compromise while still incentivizing people to go back to work when the opportunity arose.

The total cost of the unemployment benefits is obviously worrisome. It’s going to add up to hundreds of billions of dollars. But at this point, we’ve set so much magical money on fire that it feels like nobody is even keeping score anymore. What’s another couple of trillions of dollars, right? It’s not as if we’re ever going to pay down one red cent of all that debt anyway.

Another observation after last night’s display of drama and suspense has to do with Joe Manchin and his future in the upper chamber. He should really pray that his party doesn’t either lose their majority in the Senate next year or expand it to more than 60 votes. If either of those things happens, Manchin won’t be able to get a seat at the Senate lunch table, to say nothing of force through any moderate compromises. Chuck Schumer has to be grinding his teeth every time King Joseph rises to speak at this point.

Since the Democrats are clearly bound and determined to ram this package through using a reconciliation scheme, it’s probably too late to worry about it anyway. But someday the shoe is going to be back on the other foot. At that point, the GOP will need to aggressively get back on offense and start acting like they care about small-government conservatism again. Sadly, at this point, “acting” seems to be all that it ever is.