Making the unemployed wait for no reason

MAKING THE UNEMPLOYED WAIT FOR NO REASON…. There was quite a bit of attention yesterday afternoon when the Senate, after multiple tries, finally overcame a Republican filibuster on extended unemployment benefits. It was welcome, overdue news.

What got far less attention was what happened next.

Under inexplicable Senate rules, after a filibuster is broken, the minority trying to block passage can delay a final, up-or-down vote for 30 hours. Democrats hoped Republicans would agree to waive this pointless delay, and allow the Senate to vote on jobless aid. Republicans, who know the bill is going to pass anyway, refused without explanation.

Why would they bother? It’s not just about Republicans being callous misanthropes — though that’s likely part of it — it’s also a matter of running out the clock. There’s just not much time left on the Senate schedule, and the GOP wants to use up as much of the calendar as possible to prevent other bills and nominations from coming to the floor.

If that means needlessly delaying aid to struggling families for a couple of days, Republicans see this as a small price to pay. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) spoke on the chamber floor last night, lamenting the pointless holdup. “I want everyone watching the proceedings tonight to again understand what the Republicans are doing,” Reid said. “We just passed badly needed legislation to help 2.5 million unemployed. To show the lack of understanding and feeling and compassion of the Republicans, they’re making us waste 30 hours. There are people who are desperate for this money — desperate. And they’re making us wait because that’s what the rule of the Senate is.

“Now, I hope the American people understand how callous this is. People are desperate, can’t make house payments, car payments, can’t pay for kids’ food. And they are having us wait for 30 hours after cloture’s been invoked. We only need a simple majority to pass this bill now, but they’re making us wait. I just can’t articulate in strong enough feelings how unfair this is to 2.5 million people…. Every hour that is delayed is more misery for 2.5 million people.”

I should also note that, under these same rules, the Senate can’t take up any other bills or nominations while waiting for the 30 hours to elapse. In effect, it’s like a mini-filibuster that gets tacked on to the failed filibuster.

If Republicans push this to its limit, the Senate won’t vote on the extended unemployment benefits until 9 p.m. (ET) this evening.