What it takes to extend unemployment benefits

WHAT IT TAKES TO EXTEND UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS…. The good news is, President Obama will sign a measure today to extend unemployment benefits for at least 14 weeks for people out of work. It’s money well spent — it helps struggling people, and the investment tends to be stimulative — and with new, discouraging job numbers, the timing is right.

“Given the employment situation and the general bang for the buck you get from unemployment insurance, that’s probably the most sensible of the stimulative policies to extend,” Maya MacGuineas, president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, said.

The bad news is, it took far too long to get the common-sense bill through Congress. The measure stalled in the Senate for weeks, and while GOP lawmakers dithered, about 200,000 people who are looking for work lost their benefits.

We talked a couple of weeks ago about why Republicans were forcing delays, and Kevin Drum summarized what transpired on the Senate floor yesterday.

…Democrats only had to break three separate filibusters in the Senate to get this passed! The first filibuster was broken by a vote of 87-13, the second by a vote of 85-2, and the third by a vote of 97-1. The fourth and final vote, the one to actually pass the bill, was 98-0. Elapsed time: five weeks for a bill that everyone ended up voting for.

Why? Because even though Republicans were allowed to tack on a tax cut to the bill as the price of getting it passed, they decided to filibuster anyway unless they were also allowed to include an anti-ACORN amendment. Seriously. A bit of ACORN blustering to satisfy the Palin-Beck crowd is the reason they held up a bill designed to help people who are out of work in the deepest recession since World War II…. That’s called taking governing seriously, my friends.

Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) wondered yesterday why any lawmaker would deliberately hold up unemployment benefits during a recession. “Who are they representing?” she wondered.

I wonder the same thing all the time.

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Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.