Unemployment Benefits: Progress, If We Can Keep It

From the Washington Post:

The Democratic effort to extend federal benefits for the long-term unemployed got a surprise boost Tuesday as skeptical Republicans in the Senate voted to allow the proposal to advance, with issues of poverty and economic opportunity emerging as a central battleground between the parties.

The reprieve came after President Obama’s personal outreach to some GOP senators produced the narrowest of victories for the White House.

“We’ve got to make sure this recovery leaves nobody behind,” Obama said after the vote. He stressed that the recession that gripped the nation at the beginning of his first term “was so devastating that there are still a lot of people who are struggling.”

The triumph may be temporary, because the measure still faces big hurdles in the Senate and ever longer odds of passing the House…

But GOP leaders are increasingly concerned about public perceptions that they are insensitive to those who are still struggling in the slow economic recovery. In a recent memo to rank-and-file Republicans, House GOP leaders urged a show of empathy toward the jobless and advised members to view unemployment as a “personal crisis” for individuals and families.

Poised for seeming defeat, the legislation instead cleared an early hurdle by the narrowest of margins as six Senate Republicans sided with Democrats to advance it. The sides are now engaged in negotiations over legislation that would allow 1.3 million jobless workers to continue receiving unemployment insurance. The procedural vote in the Senate came as the two parties jockeyed over the political issue of rising income inequality, with Democrats pushing more aid for the jobless and an increased minimum wage. In his speech after the vote, the president called unemployment insurance “a vital economic lifeline” for the millions who are jobless.

Several prominent Republicans, including Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.) and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (Va.), plan to tout conservative alternatives to the Democratic proposals and other antipoverty programs Wednesday as they mark the 50th anniversary of the beginning of the War on Poverty…

Of course, there’s really only one consistent ‘conservative alternative’: “Then let them die, and decrease the surplus population!”

The WaPo‘s ‘The Fix’ blog has a useful history of ‘how Republicans turned against unemployment insurance‘. And here’s Greg Sargent:

… What now?

In an interview today, Dem Senator Jack Reed, who has taken a lead role on this issue, told me Dems would push for the closing of corporate tax loopholes as one way to pay for the extension. Asked if there were any other pay-fors Dems might agree to, Reed demurred, and pointed out that at this point, the negotiations are very likely to shift to the leadership level, where Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell may well discuss whether there are any ways of paying for the extension that both sides can agree to.

Said Reed: “At least now we’ve changed the debate from some of my colleagues saying this whole program should be scrapped to a bipartisan group now saying, ’The program is valuable, the question is, what effect will it have on the deficit?’”…

But today mattered. The shifting rationales from Republicans, combined with the surprise passage of the procedural measure today, will likely get the national press corps to take the unemployment insurance battle far more seriously – before, it appeared that there was no chance Republicans would ever agree to an extension — which could further increase pressure on Republicans in the days ahead.

30 replies
  1. 1
    Corner Stone says:

    This is such garbage. Fighting another rear guard action while real people are getting hurt, losing their homes, explaining to their kids why they’re not eating…
    Just bullshit.

  2. 2
    Yatsuno says:

    So which six Republicans are going to get primaried?

  3. 3
    mclaren says:

    If you need empathy coaching, you’re probably a sociopath. One of the defining characteristics of sociopaths remains their complete lack of ability to empathize with other human beings. A sociopath typically enjoys watching people in pain because their reactions are so extreme and, to the sociopath, interesting and bizarre.

  4. 4

    You know who else the unemployment insurance would have helped? Molesley. Here is my review of the first episode of Downton Abbey with Betty Cracker’s suggestion for getting out of the rut that DA seems to be stuck in.

  5. 5
    Botsplainer says:


    Declare martial law and have a battalion of Rangers march the House GOBP to re-education camps? Bribery/ Drones to take out the Kochs?

    These aren’t bad as a start…

  6. 6

    @Botsplainer: How is the diet coming along?

  7. 7
    RobertDSC-Power Mac G5 Dual says:

    I’m glad the first step was taken. Now for another. And so on and so forth.

  8. 8
    Glocksman says:


    Rangers? That’s overkill against the GOP chickenhawks when a Den of Cub Scouts would work just as well.

  9. 9
    jl says:

    ” shifting rationales from Republicans ”

    Gee, who saw that coming, from the Party of Principles?

  10. 10
    Ash Can says:

    Rebranding! !

  11. 11
    Glocksman says:

    Give ’em Red Ryder BB guns. :)

  12. 12
    Corner Stone says:

    @efgoldman: This is a pretty typical reaction in situations like these. I guess rolling over on your back and offering up your belly for a possible skritch makes sense to you.
    No, you ignorant fuck. I’m not expecting the president to do anything extra ordinary.
    But as I have consistently argued here, the budget deal the democrats agreed to right before the new year was an awful fucking deal. There was no reason for them to sign that deal.
    They are complicit in hurting people. Real people, not your fictional fucking hostages you like to strut against while you defend some mythical person no one is talking about.

  13. 13
    Corner Stone says:

    And before you start cock crowing and talking a bunch more nonsense, the Democrats should have forced the UI extension into the budget deal, or made the R’s fucking eat the whole thing.
    That was our leverage, and it is fucking all gone now, for nothing.

  14. 14
    burnspbesq says:

    “We’ve got to make sure this recovery leaves nobody behind.”

    Bit late for that, I’m afraid.

  15. 15
    burnspbesq says:

    @Corner Stone:

    But as I have consistently argued here, the budget deal the democrats agreed to right before the new year was an awful fucking deal.

    And as you have consistently ignored, there is not a shred of evidence, anywhere outside your fevered imagination, that any better deal could have been had.

  16. 16
    different-church-lady says:

    I forgot how great the Rude Pundit could be.

    But he’s missing something: this isn’t empathy coaching — it’s fake empathy coaching. They know full well they’re innate assholes. Hell, most of them are assholes by choice. The new angle is the part where they need to learn how to pretend they’re not. Because deliberately being an asshole worked for a few years, but now that the novelty has worn off there’s nobody in the GOP who remembers how to pretend to be normal.

  17. 17
    Groucho48 says:

    This is all theater. When the bill is actually discussed in the Senate, Republicans will try to attach all sorts of amendments…like eviscerating some other social program…for their support. Dems will reject the worst ones…drug testing for all recipients…and the bill will pass and Republican Senators will look good to independents.

    Then, the House will come up with some godawful bill with work camps and drug testing and victim shaming and, probably, defunding Obamacare. Reconciliation goes no where and the Reps will say that the Dem refusal to compromise is why unemployment wasn’t extended.

    I hope I’m wrong and that Reps are feeling enough pressure to be actually considering extension, but, I’m not holding my breath.

  18. 18
    Corner Stone says:

    @burnspbesq: No, you stupid smug son of a bitch. You are the willful idiot who is not getting it.
    Fuck the deal. Fuck this deal.
    Stick it right into their fucking faces and make them own the whole fucking thing. Don’t take this deal. Period.
    Now WE own this bullshit and are fighting to explain why our fellow citizens are getting porked.
    And somehow asking for backend pressure to “shame” the completely unshameable.

  19. 19
    different-church-lady says:

    @Corner Stone: Who’s this “we” you keep talking about?

  20. 20
    JustRuss says:

    will likely get the national press corps to take the unemployment insurance battle far more seriously – before, it appeared that there was no chance Republicans would ever agree to an extension

    Wait, you’re saying our media will only cover stories if it looks like Republicans won’t act like total douches? Color me shocked.

  21. 21
    Peter says:

    @Corner Stone: Oh good, I was hoping you would show up in this comment thread and continue being your pusillanimous self. Tell me, how do you square these current events – Dems pushing hard on EI extension, Obama making personal outreaches, and actually getting somewhere even if it’s not yet halfway to the finish line – with your earlier remarks that if Obama and the Dems actually wanted an EI extension it would have been insisted on in the don’t-blow-up-the-country-for-a-few-years deal?

    Oh wait, you can’t. But you’ll just keep soldiering on, and on, and on, because you have no narrative except ‘The Dems sold us out and Obama is a rat traitor’. Hardly even bothering to mix up the wording. I could write a bot to comment for you and nobody would be able to tell the difference.

  22. 22
    Mike in NC says:

    If you live in a Red State and are out of work, you probably will get jack shit in terms of UI beyond the standard 26 weeks.

  23. 23
    FlipYrWhig says:

    So which is a better situation: unemployment extension in the budget deal, helping more people, and getting little attention in the news; or unemployment extension not in the budget deal, allowing people to be hurt, but getting a fair amount of attention in the news? Seems like in the first option you provide more help but get little credit, and in the second option you provide less help but — if it works — get more credit. Risky play. Go hard on income inequality and economic justice for the year and then you’ve got Narrative. And, ideally, some actual justice.

  24. 24
    Chyron HR says:

    @Corner Stone:

    The budget deal the democrats agreed to right before the new year was an awful fucking deal. There was no reason for them to sign that deal. They are complicit in hurting people. Real people.

    Whereas a government shutdown is just a magical abstract concept that has no tangible effect on the real lives of real people in the real world at all.

  25. 25
    Matt McIrvin says:

    @FlipYrWhig: Eh, if that were really the choice I’d take “more help” over “better narrative” in an instant. It’s not clear to me that that was really the choice.

  26. 26
    debbie says:

    Too funny. This is like Dexter trying to be a human being. It just isn’t in Republican DNA to be empathetic.

  27. 27
    Cervantes says:

    @Matt McIrvin: Have you seen anything published that explains convincingly what the actual choices were (if any)?

  28. 28
    Corner Stone says:

    @Chyron HR: But that was the only leverage available. The last shut down hurt the R’s as a party. Most Americans put the primary blame on the R’s. The D’s stood together and actually won, if there could be anything like a “win” in all that bs.
    Then the media skull fucked us when the ACA website wasn’t ready for primetime and the whole narrative got sucked away and the R’s recovered somewhat.
    By intentionally leaving out even the mention of the people hurt by loss of UI and taking the budget deal, the D party gave the R’s an incredible opening. It was a bad deal that should not have been agreed to.

  29. 29
    Corner Stone says:

    Even if somehow a deal for UI is agreed to in the short term, how many of the people who were barely hanging can we put back in their homes? Or retroactively put food on the table for their kids?
    It’s shameful to me that the main argument made for dealing with the R’s was because “we have to! they will shoot the hostages!”, and yet here we are.

  30. 30
    Corner Stone says:

    Now, if a deal is even agreed to, it will be some 3 month garbage most likely with some offset. So, we get to hurt real people, and add in some cut that will hurt more people.
    The idea that the D’s are going to win some narrative war by taking up the mantle of the poors is really puzzling to me. They could have actually forced a fight that would have clearly delineated who was on whose side, but I guess the narrative battle is the one we have now.

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