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Tilting at Windmills

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April 13, 2010

SENATE BREAKS GOP FILIBUSTER ON UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS.... About a month ago, Sen. Jim Bunning (R-Ky.) blocked a vote on extending unemployment benefits, Medicare payments to doctors, and funding for highway projects. The ordeal quickly became farcical, and after five days, and under pressure from GOP leaders, Bunning relented and the bill passed.

Senate Republicans apparently enjoyed the partisan clash because they hosted a sequel, blocking unemployment benefits again. Last night, the Senate broke the GOP filibuster.

The Senate on Monday took a major, and likely decisive, step toward restoring jobless benefits for hundreds of thousands of people, as those constituents endured an eighth straight day without assurances of any help.

Efforts to provide the benefits have been stalled while senators fought over how and whether to pay for the aid. A 60-34 Senate vote Monday to overcome a procedural hurdle and move to a final vote offered new hope that the impasse will be broken later this week.

In the meantime, the National Employment Law Project, an advocacy group that studies employment issues, estimates that about 212,500 people lose benefits each week as Congress stalls on approving money for the aid. By the end of April, the total could be nearly 1 million. The jobless aid money ran out April 5.

"The American people are saying, 'Why can't those guys get together up there and get something done?' " Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., asked during Monday's debate. " 'Whatever happened to common sense?' they say. 'Why can't you extend their unemployment benefits?' "

The spending package, now very likely to pass, includes benefits for the unemployed (to be paid retroactively to cover the last week), payments to doctors who treat Medicare patients, COBRA subsidies, and funding for the National Flood Insurance Program. Passage this week would prevent another 200,000 unemployed Americans from losing their benefits.

To overcome the GOP obstructionism, four Republicans broke party ranks to allow the Senate to vote up or down on the legislation: Sens. Scott Brown (Mass.), Susan Collins (Maine), Olympia Snowe (Maine), and George Voinovich (Ohio).

Republicans, led by Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), insisted that they were waging this fight because the measure was deemed an emergency bill paid for by deficit financing. Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) said, "It's a question of whether we pay for it or we simply say, 'Put it on the tab for our kids and grandkids to pay for it.'"

Kyl had no similar concerns when he supported asking our kids and grandkids to pay for the war in Iraq, the war in Afghanistan, Bush's tax cuts, Medicare Part D, and No Child Left Behind. He and his cohorts only seem troubled by deficits when it's the unemployed who might benefit. I wonder why that is.

Breaking the filibuster clears the way for final passage, but the bill is nevertheless a temporary fix: "The measure would extend the extra unemployment pay only through early May."

In other words, we may get to experience all of this again a month from now.

Steve Benen 8:00 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (20)

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Disrupting the legislative process at every single possible opportunity? Refusing to let the democratically elected majority govern?

Sounds anti-American to me.

Posted by: Hank on April 13, 2010 at 8:05 AM | PERMALINK

I have a sincere question. I would hate to give the Repukes anything they want, but why don't we pay for it out of unspent stimulus money? It is about the most stimulative use of those funds I can imagine. There may be a good reason, but I haven't seen an explanation.

Posted by: msmolly on April 13, 2010 at 8:15 AM | PERMALINK

I'd like to see those 34 GOPylvanian bloodsuckers claim the mantle "bipartisan opposition" on this one.

Next stop: Bringing down the hammer on the Godzilla-banks, enforcing anti-trust laws against AHIP's marauding barbarians, and putting Wall Street on a very, very short leash. Those three alone will pay for everything on Mr. Obama's agenda.


Posted by: S. Waybright on April 13, 2010 at 8:16 AM | PERMALINK

Kyl, McCain etc are heartless, mean, SOBs -- which they probably consider praise. $240 a week lasts like dry ice in Julys desert heat. I think they want to see streets filled with the unemployed begging because their unemployment checks stopped.

Posted by: KurtRex1453 on April 13, 2010 at 8:24 AM | PERMALINK

Scott Brown again? Heh.

Posted by: Matt on April 13, 2010 at 8:25 AM | PERMALINK

Why does Sen. Scott Brown hate the troops so much? Porr Tea Baggers...didn't quite get what they wanted eh? I bet this vote will be the talk of the upcoming Boston "Tea party" that Brown has thrown under the bus. I wonder if Brown will be a sandbagger like that dork in Virginia who campagined as a moderate but was a closet neocon bigot, but in a good way instead? Naw...

Posted by: stevio on April 13, 2010 at 8:28 AM | PERMALINK

The unspent stimulus money, for what I know, is part of a staged spending program. They paid out some millions of dollars back in '09... they will spend a calculated amount this year... and then spend another portion in 2011, etc.

They've already planned out when the stimulus money gets spent. The Republicans just want to disrupt that by taking money already accounted for rather than find new places (i.e., much-needed tax increases) to pay for the ongoing unemployment crisis.

The other reason why the GOP senators are doing this, by the by, is because they're sadistic pigs who think that if they hamper the unemployed enough times we'll get pissed off at the Democrats (after all, "they're in charge") instead of the evil f-cking Republicans who don't give a rat's ass about us 12 percenters unable to find full-time work anymore. ...yeah I'm an angry unemployed guy at the moment, so apologies for the venting.

Posted by: PaulW on April 13, 2010 at 8:30 AM | PERMALINK

Sounds anti-American to me.

The Republican Party is working actively to destroy America. Any vote for any Republican is a de facto act of treason.

Posted by: Mike on April 13, 2010 at 8:30 AM | PERMALINK

"Pay for it."

They say that like they say "just get them in a room and work it out."

They love to pretend answers are simple.

Paying for it means getting money somehow. They don't specify how this is to be accomplished.

Perhaps they mean paying for it with existing taxes. Ducky. Which programs do you cut? Does cutting those programs hamper economic recovery?

If you cut a weapons system, does that defense company lay people off?

If you cut an agricultural subsidy, does a farmer let a few workers go?

Robbing Peter to pay Paul doesn't expand an economy. It treads water.

This would help Republicans in November and explains their newly minted fiscal prudence.

Wind down Iraq and Afghanistan. That'll pay some bills. Karzai is all but handing us our hat and coat. Just keep the drones handy and the Pakistani government on speed dial. (and keep going with the good ol' fashioned, wimpy, lib'rul, boring "police work" intel)

Posted by: toowearyforoutrage on April 13, 2010 at 8:46 AM | PERMALINK

1. The Repubs are anti-social security, anti-medicare, or any other program via the social safety net.
2. In order to turn the clock back to the 'gilded age' (1870-1900) before Social Security and the social safety net programs, the Repubs try two courses of action;
a. When in power they try to spend to government into default/bankruptcy. In bankruptcy they can terminate all social programs they dislike.
b. When not in power, they become the opposite of what they were in power, they become deficit hawks; and their solution to the deficit is destroy Social Security and Medicare, Medicaid, and any other social safety net program they want to terminate.
Now isn't that simple. Simple solutions for SIMPLE

Posted by: verberne on April 13, 2010 at 8:53 AM | PERMALINK

When I was boy, we had the work farm, the poor house, orphanages, insane asylums. The penal colony was the greatest idea of the 18th C!

Ah, how one longs for the Good Old Days. . .

Posted by: DAY on April 13, 2010 at 8:54 AM | PERMALINK

60 votes for, including 4 republicans (Brown, Voinovich, Collins, & Snow, with Brown being quite a surprise). But which democrats who voted against the extension? Or were some simply not present?

Posted by: N.Wells on April 13, 2010 at 9:41 AM | PERMALINK

Democrats Tom Harkin of Iowa, Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia and Robert Menendez of New Jersey were absent....LA Times.

Posted by: bobbyp on April 13, 2010 at 9:49 AM | PERMALINK

Good for scott brown...a moronic cultist in many things, but it appears he is on board with the good guys when it comes to jobs and the unemployed!

Posted by: LTC on April 13, 2010 at 10:14 AM | PERMALINK

What Dick Durbin said. (heard it on NPR -- something like "Where were my colleagues on the other side of the aisle when the previous president tripled the deficit from $5 trillion to $12 trillion?"

Posted by: lou on April 13, 2010 at 10:23 AM | PERMALINK

However you slice it or dice it, filibustering is a silly Senate ritual.

Imagine if we could filibuster each other in daily life, and the absurdity of it comes shining through. This short satire video gives us a peek into that world:

Filibuster Fever

Posted by: bondwooley on April 13, 2010 at 10:41 AM | PERMALINK

HOLY SHIT!! Ben Nelson actually voted yes!

Well, this won't sit well with the rabid, KFAB-listening teabaggers here in the Cornhusker State.

Posted by: 2Manchu on April 13, 2010 at 10:43 AM | PERMALINK
Kyl had no similar concerns when he supported asking our kids and grandkids to pay for the war in Iraq, the war in Afghanistan ...

Deficits are okay when they're used to kill brown people.

Bush's tax cuts

Deficits are okay when they're used to further enrich the already rich.

Medicare Part D

Deficits are okay when they're used to send taxpayer money to Big Pharma.

No Child Left Behind

Deficits are okay when they're used to destroy the educational system and, thus, help maintain -- and even widen -- the gap between rich and poor.

He and his cohorts only seem troubled by deficits when it's the unemployed who might benefit. I wonder why that is.

Deficits are NOT okay when they're used to help people Not Like Him.

It really is fairly simple.

Posted by: Mark D on April 13, 2010 at 10:49 AM | PERMALINK

Aren't Kyl & Co. effectively advocating "kill grandma because it's too expensive to take care of her"?

Here we have people unemployed, in need of money for housing, food, medical expenses, and some Republicans are saying, "Sorry, you're not worth spending money on, crawl off in a corner and die."

The GOP: they don't just want to kill grandpa and grandma, they want mom and dad to die too.

Posted by: karen marie on April 13, 2010 at 11:11 AM | PERMALINK

I have no idea

Posted by: zoekmachine optimalisatie on December 28, 2010 at 2:29 PM | PERMALINK



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