Congress has Done Something, which in and of itself would qualify as news, but this time it’s passage of the various sausage-making implements involving extending the payroll tax cut, extended federal unemployment insurance, and the Medicare “doc fix” through the end of the year.
The bill cleared the Senate in a 60-36 vote less than an hour after the House approved it by a 293-132 margin.
A majority of House Republicans and Democrats voted in favor of the bill, though 91 Republicans and 41 Democrats in the chamber voted no. Senate Democrats voted overwhelmingly for the bill while Senate Republicans largely opposed it.
President Barack Obama has promised to sign the legislation as soon as he ends his current trip to the West Coast, ending debate on the politically sensitive measures at least for the duration of the election.
“This is a big deal,” the president told an audience in Washington state. “It is amazing what happens when Congress focuses on doing the right thing instead of just playing politics.”
And while the GOP did drop the payroll tax cut pay-for, paying for the other two required some…sacrifices.
Funding sources to pay for the benefits extension and the doc fix include savings from broadband spectrum sales, increased pension contributions by new federal employees, and cuts to Medicare hospital and specialist fees that will not affect patients, according to the House Ways and Means Committee.
Several Democrats from Maryland and Virginia — near Washington — voted against the package because, they argued, it treats federal employees unfairly by requiring new government hires to contribute more to their pension.
Under the terms of the deal, in states with unemployment rates higher than the national average of 8.3%, the maximum time an unemployed person can receive benefits will drop from 99 to 73 weeks. The maximum length of benefits for people in states with an average unemployment rate or lower will drop to 63 weeks or as far down as 40 weeks.
That part of the deal is not going to be pretty down the road, but this…
In addition, states will be allowed to perform drug tests on individuals applying for unemployment benefits if those people lost their previous job because they either failed or refused an employer’s drug test. Individuals receiving unemployment assistance could also be tested if they are seeking a job that generally requires a drug test.
Also, welfare beneficiaries will be banned from accessing public assistance funds at ATMs in strip clubs, liquor stores, and casinos.
…this is just stupid GOP douchebaggery.