The Fight Over Unemployment Insurance

Senate Democrats won a victory on unemployment insurance Monday, overcoming GOP resistance to advance to a vote to extend benefits. (Democrats needed 60 votes to get cloture and end debate; they got it, 60-34.)

At first glance, it's surprising Republicans objected: the last time they opposed an unemployment insurance extension, Sen. Jim Bunning (R-KY) became the face of obstruction, and it did not play well for Republicans. The media had a field day with it, as Bunning had a testy encounter with an ABC reporter on camera in his Senate office building.

There's one, simple thing that's easy to forget here: it's not that Republicans flatly object to extending unemployment benefits, it's that they want it paid for. They want the Senate to adhere more vigilantly to the pay-go rules that Democrats passed earlier this Congress. Democrats, meanwhile, say this is an emergency measure, and that in light of pay-go's emergency clause, the spending rules shouldn't apply. Republicans think it's an "emergency" in that it needs to get done, but not to the point where pay-go should get waived.

Nonetheless, positioning oneself against an unemployment extension, in any fashion, leads to criticisms like this one, from AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka:

America's workers are grateful that the Senate finally overcame Republican obstruction and invoked cloture on a one-month extension of unemployment and COBRA benefits for jobless workers.  It is shameful that such a simple and humane step took so long to implement and that Republican Senators tried to win political points by jeopardizing the lifeline of hundreds of thousands of working families.

And that tends to resonate during a recession.

We'll have this debate all over again next month, even if this temporary extension passes, unless House and Senate Democrats can agree on a long-term extension of benefits (both chambers have passed their own versions, but they're not identical, which means they have to get combined and voted on).

Politically, it seems, Democrats actually reap the benefits from the stalled long-term bill every time this debate comes up, when cable news networks grace the bottoms of American TV screens with headlines about GOP opposition to benefits, and groups like the AFL-CIO put out statements blasting Republicans' callous treatment of the unemployed.

Presented by

Chris Good is a political reporter for ABC News. He was previously an associate editor at The Atlantic and a reporter for The Hill.

How to Cook Spaghetti Squash (and Why)

Cooking for yourself is one of the surest ways to eat well. Bestselling author Mark Bittman teaches James Hamblin the recipe that everyone is Googling.

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

How to Cook Spaghetti Squash (and Why)

Cooking for yourself is one of the surest ways to eat well.

Video

Before Tinder, a Tree

Looking for your soulmate? Write a letter to the "Bridegroom's Oak" in Germany.

Video

The Health Benefits of Going Outside

People spend too much time indoors. One solution: ecotherapy.

Video

Where High Tech Meets the 1950s

Why did Green Bank, West Virginia, ban wireless signals? For science.

Video

Yes, Quidditch Is Real

How J.K. Rowling's magical sport spread from Hogwarts to college campuses

Video

Would You Live in a Treehouse?

A treehouse can be an ideal office space, vacation rental, and way of reconnecting with your youth.

More in Politics

Just In