Federal emergency unemployment benefits will expire for 1.3 million struggling Americans in just two weeks. President Obama used his weekly address a few days ago to raise the visibility of the issue and urge Congress to act before it’s too late.
And while many have wondered whether congressional Republicans are actually prepared to follow through on this, cutting off jobless aid for Christmas, we apparently have our answer.
The [bipartisan budget deal announced last night] doesn’t include any extension of unemployment insurance – and no such extension is forthcoming. During the negotiations, Republicans proved hostile even to limited extensions in unemployment insurance. Right now, the House is expected to vote on Friday to pass the budget deal…. They’re expected to let unemployment benefits for 1.3 million long-term unemployed expire.
The prospect for 11th-hour heroics is remote, at best. House members are planning to wrap up their work for the year on Friday, and the chamber won’t return until January – well after the Dec. 28 deadline. Democratic proponents of extending unemployment benefits in the budget agreement came up empty.
There’s still some talk of attaching an extension to some other must-pass bill – the farm bill, the “doc fix,” etc. – but Democrats are running into fierce resistance from Republicans, who simply do not want to act before the deadline.
The question, then, isn’t whether success is still possible, but what the consequences of failure will be.
As the president explained the other day, “Just this week, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office predicted that allowing benefits to expire will be a drag on our economic growth next year. A report by the Department of Labor and my Council of Economic Advisors estimated that it could cost businesses 240,000 jobs. And without the ability to feed their families or pay the bills, many people currently looking for work could stop looking for good.”
The fight could conceivably return in the new year, and perhaps even apply the benefits retroactively, though overcoming unyielding GOP opposition seems unlikely. Congress has never allowed jobless benefits to lapse with unemployment this high, but with a radicalized House majority in power, new norms are being established all the time.