As I mentioned this morning, the House tried today for a three-month extension of expiring unemployment benefits, which would have continued them until Feb. 28, 2011. This was called under suspension of the rules, presumably for the purpose of avoiding the dreaded motion to recommit, which Republicans could bring up to engage in any manner of mischief. Democrats simply don’t have discipline on motion to recommit votes, and depending on the motion the Republicans could have easily mucked up the bill. Therefore, a bill which got a vote of 258-154 today failed, because under suspension of the rules it needed a 2/3 vote for passage.
Therefore, the Republicans at the end of the 111th Congress have virtually turned it into a super-majority body, at least on some issues.
That said, this vote seemed more like a test vote to me. It was brought up quickly, without much warning, and put on the calendar in a day. They did get around 21 Republicans to vote for the unpaid-for three-month extension, while 11 Democrats voted no (those may not be precise figures; I’ll post a roll call when I have it). It generally shows that the votes are there, with relative ease, for a three-month extension. Then again, nobody believes the recession will be over in three months, and so the entire thing would repeat itself in the next Congress – with a Republican House – if this passed.
The Senate is really where the UI extension will have the most difficulty. Jack Reed and Bob Casey had no idea when a vote would be scheduled on a benefit extension.
If the benefits, which stretch the normal 26 weeks of unemployment insurance out to 99 weeks, are not extended, close to 2 million jobless Americans will lose what is almost assuredly their primary source of income by the end of the year.