Unemployment aid finally extended

UNEMPLOYMENT AID FINALLY EXTENDED…. It never should have taken this long, but at least it’s done.

Congress has approved a six-month extension of emergency jobless benefits for the long-term unemployed. On a vote of 272 to 152, the House gave the measure final approval and sent it on to the White House, where aides said President Obama plans to sign it immediately.

The Senate passed the measure Wednesday.

The bill will revive a program that provides up to 99 weeks of income support to those who have exhausted state benefits, restoring aid to nearly 3 million people who have seen their checks cut off since the program expired June 2. Advocates for the unemployed said checks in some states are likely to go out quickly; in others, people can expect a delay of several weeks.

Here’s the final roll call in the House. Note that 31 Republicans broke party ranks and supported the extension, while 10 House Democrats — 9 of them Blue Dogs — voted in opposition.

The measure extends benefits through Nov. 30, at which point the fight can begin anew.

As glad as I am to see this task completed, it’s worth noting that we just witnessed a months-long dispute over the bare minimum — unemployment benefits. This bill should have included aid to states, a modest extension of the $25-a-week Federal Additional Compensation, and long-sought Medicaid funding, among other things. These additional provisions were in the bill, and should have been protected, but had to be scuttled — “moderate” Republicans wouldn’t let the Senate vote on the bill unless all of these additional provisions were removed entirely.

Have I mentioned lately that our legislative process doesn’t seem to work?

On a more encouraging note, Sen. George LeMieux (R-Fla.) said today he’s prepared to vote with Dems to break a GOP filibuster of the small-business incentives bill, including the $30 billion lending program that would make credit available to small businesses through local banks, which we talked about earlier.

With LeMieux on board, the bill’s prospects have improved greatly.