A couple of weeks ago, Labor Secretary Thomas Perez sent a fairly detailed letter to House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), suggesting a dialog on extended federal unemployment benefits. “You have indicated that [Emergency Unemployment Compensation] should only be extended in combination with job-creation measures, but EUC is itself an effective job creation tool,” Perez explained.
There was a rather quaint earnestness to Perez’s appeal – the Labor Secretary seems to believe there’s a policy dispute that can be resolved by information and an exchange of ideas.
Alas, there’s ample evidence to the contrary. The Speaker’s office quickly dismissed Perez’s letter, saying it didn’t include a new plan for creating jobs. What about the fact that an extension would itself create jobs? Boehner’s aides brushed that aside.
The issue seems to have largely faded from front pages, but it’s been nearly six months since congressional Republicans cut off unemployment benefits for roughly 1.3 million Americans – a number that climbs by about 72,000 people every week. It’s also been nearly two months since the Senate approved a bipartisan compromise to extend the jobless aid.
Senate negotiators toiled for months to revive long-term unemployment benefits in a manner that could draw the support of both centrist Republicans and liberal Democrats.But in a few days, that effort will be all for naught.The jobless aid bill that narrowly passed the Senate in early April would extend the benefits to June 1 – but barring a surprise breakthrough, there’s almost no chance the House will take up that legislation or an alternative of its own during the last two weeks of May.
Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) told Politico, “I’m worried. Because with each passing day, it’s going to become more difficult to reinstate the program. And in the meantime, we’re going to start seeing another wave of individuals who will lose their benefits.”
Perhaps Collins should call Speaker Boehner, who doesn’t share her worries.
As for what, if anything, can be done, one senator has talked up an obvious solution.
Sen. Dean Heller may try to attach a long-stalled unemployment extension to an $85 billion package of corporate tax breaks Senate Democrats plan to bring to the floor next week.“Yes,” Heller said, when asked about whether he is considering trying to attach the five-month unemployment benefits extension to the tax extenders bill. “We are taking a look at favorable pieces of legislation out there that we can attach something to,” he continued.
Of course, that was two weeks ago – and last week Senate Republicans filibustered the package of corporate tax breaks they said they wanted.
In the meantime, the jobless Americans who’ve been cut off have no reason to hope GOP lawmakers will change their minds, and none of this is doing the economy any favors.