Hey, GOP: If you need empathy coaching, you are probably innately assholes. http://t.co/lDabzyHG0P
— The Rude Pundit (@rudepundit) January 8, 2014
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.