The Senate passed the war supplemental last night, which also includes funding for disaster relief in the Gulf and in flood-damaged states. It was one of the quicker and easier bills to move through the Senate this year. They expected to take up a jobs bill this week as well. But it never came over from the House, and so the Senate will recess without extending jobless benefits, the COBRA subsidy or the Medicare doc fix. All three expire before the Senate returns from the Memorial Day recess on June 7.
This is the third time this year these programs have been allowed to lapse. Presumably Congress will pass a short-term retroactive extension when they come back from break. But the House looks like they’ll cut the COBRA subsidy altogether to get the necessary votes for the package.
Laid off workers would lose subsidies to help buy health insurance and states would be denied billions in federal aid under a plan by House leaders Thursday to trim a bill extending jobless benefits.
Democrats struggled to extend jobless benefits for people who have been out of work for long stretches as lawmakers worried about the growing budget deficit balked at the price tag of the package.
The cuts would reduce the package by about $31 billion, to about $112 billion. Business tax increases would pay for some of the bill, which would still add more than $50 billion to the deficit.
House leaders hope to vote on the package as early as Thursday evening.
One former holdout, Democrat Henry Cuellar of Texas, said the cuts would probably be enough to win his vote. House leaders hoped to vote on the package as early as Thursday evening.
“The bigness issue and the deficit issue has been addressed,” Cuellar said. “I’m leaning toward a ‘yes.’”
Votes didn’t happen last night, but are expected today. Dick Durbin called the COBRA cut “painful for many of us who have sympathy for the unemployed.” He’ll vote for a bill without it, of course.
The COBRA subsidy and aid to the states for Medicaid are the most dead-simple, stimulative items in the bill. Blue Dogs simply have no conception of what will save their jobs this fall – not avoiding some random attack ad on “out-of-control Washington spending” (which they can’t avoid no matter what their vote on this bill), but actually providing jobs. Plus, eliminating two measures that will KEEP PEOPLE ON THEIR HEALTH INSURANCE, at a time when they’re going to try and tout the success of passing a health care bill, has got to be the most self-destructive thing I’ve heard in a while.
And by the way, Blue Dogs will never see the relationship to their consistent opposition to stimulative job-creation measures and their personal job security. If they win in November, they’ll say it was because they avoided “tough votes” like this. If they lose, they’ll say it was because the caucus moved too far to the left. This catch-22 only hurts their constituents, however. K Street will welcome the Blue Dog refugees – they won’t be out of work for long.