About a month ago, Senate Democrats thought they’d come up with a way to overcome a Republican filibuster on extending federal unemployment benefits. Because the GOP insisted the jobless aid must be paid for – despite the fact that Republicans believed the opposite in the recent past – Dems crafted a solution.
The plan was fairly simple: unemployment benefits could be extended through the rest of the year, and it’d be financed by extending some sequestration spending cuts for another year into the future. It was admittedly something of a shell game – Democrats intended to spend some aid in 2014 in exchange for spending cuts in 2024. Proponents of the idea admitted they expected to find some alternate solution to sequestration long before the damage is done a decade from now.
But Republicans balked, complaining, among other things, that the financing was effectively smoke and mirrors. “I’m tired of these supposed pay-fors where you spend money the first year, and you don’t pay for it, what, until 10 years later,” Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) said. “It’s literally a joke.”
A month later, however, Michael McAuliff noticed that GOP officials suddenly discovered they like the scheme after all – for one of their priorities.
It turned out the principle applied only to the unemployed. Nearly all GOP senators voted Wednesday for the very same plan when it was aimed at helping people who retired early from the military.
There was broad, bipartisan support for renewing the reduced military pension benefits cut in the budget, but the trick, as always, was figuring out how to pay for it.
Proponents ultimately decided on the easiest fix: they’d just extend some sequester cuts in 2024 – the exact same idea Republicans ridiculed as “literally a joke” a month ago. Indeed, the exact same GOP lawmakers who rejected the Democratic funding idea in January voted for it this week.
When it’s time to help the long-term unemployed, Republicans said the funding measure wasn’t good enough. When it’s time to help those relying on military pensions, Republicans said the measure was just fine.
It’s all a matter of priorities.