Late this afternoon, Democrats scored a huge victory on President Obama’s agenda by getting Senate Republicans to cave on unemployment benefits that are paid for in part by effectively raising taxes on corporations. But heck, they’re paid for and that’s what Republicans said they wanted.
After the Senate reached a “bipartisan” deal to renew federal unemployment benefits to the more than two million Americans Thursday afternoon, Ways and Means Committee Ranking Member Sander Levin (D-MI) urged House Republicans to follow the bipartisan path and do the right thing. Republicans have already thrown 2 million off of unemployment benefits since December 28.
Levin focused on the responsibility to act, “The bipartisan Senate legislation on unemployment insurance is a major step forward for millions of job-seeking Americans. I urge Republicans in the House to follow this bipartisan path to assist the unemployed who have been without federal assistance since Dec. 28th. The need is urgent, as is our responsibility to act.”
The measure will extend benefits for five months and backdates the extension to December 28, 2013 when benefits expired, so that people who were kicked off of their benefits will be eligible for retroactive payments. While the push to reinstate long term emergency unemployment benefits came from Democrats, NBC News reported that Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine told reporters that the deal has enough Republican support, and she pointed out that the aid would be “paid for.”
This means that the measure has enough Republicans to overcome the 60 vote bar that conservative Republicans were hoping would stop it. This is bad news for House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), who probably doesn’t want to have to explain in an election year why his House is tossing 2 million to the curb. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates that extending the benefits for another year would save 200,000 jobs, so it’s not just the jobless who benefit. Unemployment benefits during a recession also help the economy.
It’s toss the people to the curb or Boehner goes rogue again and works with Democrats to do what his party must do in order to avoid being defined as the party that holds the people in contempt. The measure will probably not be voted on in the Senate until late March, giving Boehner some time.
Even though the benefits are paid for, House Republicans will probably try to claim it isn’t paid for, and that will be due to them having issue with how it’s paid for.
The extension is paid for in part via alteration to the way corporations deal with pensions, and as the AP put it, “in effect increasing their taxes.” As you all know, whenever corporations are involved, Republicans do the Koch Puppet dance. Translation, if it raises taxes on corporations, it ain’t happening in this House, where raising costs due to “austerity” is reserved for the people.
The AP also points out that the agreement ends jobless payments for those earning over $1 million. Republicans would rather try to make a “moral” argument for denying food to starving children than take a penny away from a millionaire, so it looks like poor John Boehner will be stuck between the tea and an election.
Unless of course John Boehner goes rogue again. And then anything is possible. Either way, this is a huge victory for Democrats. Now we need that victory to translate into a victory for the people, but for that, we need John Boehner to go rogue.
Ms. Jones is the co-founder/ editor-in-chief of PoliticusUSA and a member of the White House press pool.
Sarah hosts Politicus News and co-hosts Politicus Radio. Her analysis has been featured on several national radio, television news programs and talk shows, and print outlets including Stateside with David Shuster, as well as The Washington Post, The Atlantic Wire, CNN, MSNBC, The Week, The Hollywood Reporter, and more.
Sarah is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists.