After finding out what President Scott Brown is thinking with regards to financial reform, I’m sure you’re waiting with bated breath to hear his thoughts on unemployment insurance. As you may know, Sens. Reid and Baucus introduced a substitute amendment to the tax extenders bill that would extend unemployment for 6 months and also extend to the end of September the closing deadline for families seeking the homebuyer’s tax credit (they had to sign a deal by April 30). Olympia Snowe had called for this measure, leading many to believe that the Senate had the votes to break a filibuster and provide $34 billion in extended unemployment benefits. Susan Collins intimated that she would join Snowe.
But Ben Nelson is opposed to anything that would deficit spend. Anyway, he’s bored with unemployment. So until a replacement for Robert Byrd is seated, the Democrats would have to find one other Republican willing to vote for cloture. That leads us to President Scott Brown. And today, he offered his own unemployment bill, a “deficit neutral” measure that would pay for the benefits by stealing from the stimulus.
There are some programs in that legislation that are important to Massachusetts during this economic crisis — the summer jobs program for young people, unemployment insurance extensions for those still looking for work in this tough economy, as well as additional assistance to the states, known as FMAP — but we need to find a way to pay for them.
My compromise bill uses unspent stimulus funds and cuts wasteful and unnecessary spending in other areas to pay for these important programs. Believe it or not, there is about $37 billion in stimulus money just sitting in a Washington slush fund when it should be put to good use immediately.
What some call “sitting in a Washington slush fund,” others call “appropriated by Congress and being used on projects across the country.” The myth of “unused stimulus money” would represent a cut to programs already called for in the stimulus. It’s robbing Peter to pay Paul.
leadership Democratic aide questioned Brown’s motives. “It’s clear that he’s pushing this alternative bill as cover for a no vote on the standalone,” and given the current vote count in the Senate, Brown would be successful in blocking that UI/homebuyer’s bill. “It’s incredible that a Boston Globe poll just came out showing Brown’s approval rating high, and yet he’s bringing all this pain to Massachusetts,” the aide said.
So America waits, turning its eyes to President Brown to see what he’ll allow to go forward. Failing that, the Senate could withhold the vote until after the July 4 recess, when West Virginia will have a new Democratic Senator, and pass the UI bill then. But that would add two more weeks of misery to those whose benefits have run out.
It’s all up to President Brown.
UPDATE: More from Mcjoan.