40 SENATE HOOVERS…. It’s an election year, and the economy remains the issue at the top of voters’ priority list. It stands to reason that lawmakers would want to take modest steps to improve the economy and prevent job losses.
But reason has been deemed irrelevant in much of the Senate, where sacrificing workers and the unemployed over long-term deficit fears is somehow perceived as wise.
The Senate effectively rejected a slimmed-down package of jobless benefits and state aid late Thursday, rebuffing President Obama’s call for urgent action to bolster the economic recovery. […]
Democratic leaders, who had predicted victory less than 24 hours earlier, vowed not to give up on the measure, but acknowledged that they have no clear path to securing the one or two Republican votes needed to push it to final passage. Though the sprawling package contains a number of must-pass provisions, Republicans have been steadfast in their opposition, insisting that the full cost of the measure be covered by cutting existing government programs.
If the Senate had been allowed to vote on the measure, it would have passed. But Republicans kept up their scandalous habit of filibustering literally every proposal of any significance, leading to a 56 to 40 vote. (Sens. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) and Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.) voted with Republicans, who unanimously opposed the bill.) Because the Senate is ridiculous, 40 votes trumps 56.
Note that Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) did not switch his vote for procedural reasons, which means that the economic aid package is, for now, dead.
In real-world terms, this means more than a million unemployed Americans will stop receiving assistance next week, and aid states are counting on to prevent massive layoffs won’t arrive.
The Senate had a choice: worry about the deficit or worry about higher unemployment. For reasons that defy common sense, the Senate chose the former — as if the deficit will improve when more Americans are out of work.
The Democratic majority really can’t let this stand. As a policy matter, Republicans’ neo-Hooverism will cause widespread suffering. As a political matter, it’s Dems who’ll be blamed when unemployment gets worse. (It’s unpleasant to think about, but it may be time for a discussion about whether GOP lawmakers are trying to deliberately sabotage the economy to help their midterm election strategy.)
Ideally, the Democratic leadership would keep bringing this up, every day, shining a light on exactly what Republicans are doing here.
Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and Reid are scheduled to meet today to discuss their next steps. Stay tuned.