Max Baucus just got around today to introducing a one-year extension of unemployment benefits, at a one-time cost of $56.4 billion dollars. Baucus did not offset the bill (though isn’t that equal to the cost of the federal employee pay freeze over ten years, and less than canceling ethanol subsidies, FWIW). And that’s because he has no belief it will pass before the expiration of extended benefits tonight. Baucus will offer a unanimous consent vote tonight at some point, and a Republican will object. And that will be that.
Let’s look at the human cost. Because of this inaction, 800,000 people who have been collecting unemployment beyond 26 weeks will lost their benefits. By the end of the year, that number will rise to 2 million. Those are the raw figures; this explanation gets specific on what people in what states will lose their benefits when this bill fails tonight.
These people will have no visible means of support, and will have to rely on charity, good neighbors, or God knows what to get through the days. The National Employment Law Project has a great summary of what these people face, drawing on the 51-day delay this summer as Congress wrestled with an extension. If benefits get extended at all, you can expect this time to take just as long. This is just harrowing.
It only takes one senator to block a unanimous consent request. HuffPost asked Casey what Democrats would do after unanimous consent is denied.
“Well, we’ll have to think of another way to get it done. Not just this week and this month, but if it takes longer than that we’ll have to stay at it,” he said. “You know how long it took us [over the summer] to get unemployment insurance as part of a bigger bill on tax extenders. We had vote after vote on that, they blocked and blocked and blocked. We pulled it out, had a separate vote, they blocked and blocked.”
Casey added: “We’re used to having a series of votes on this before we get it done.”
Republicans are content to deny the reality that unemployment benefits are spent at high levels, and thus represent the best boost you can give to consumer spending and the economy, while helping those in need. Extending benefits is a job creator, as much as idiots like John Shadegg want to scoff at it. The knock-on effects of benefit extensions that get spent are felt at every small business in the country.
But we’re not going to get that today. Instead, we’re going to place millions of people in peril because they happened to be of working age at the wrong time and in the wrong circumstances, in the midst of an historic economic collapse.
UPDATE: Republicans objected. The benefits will lapse.