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Republican Minority In Senate Blocks UI Extension With Majority Support

[ 82 ] January 15, 2014 |

The World’s Worst Delberative Body, everyone:

The Senate’s effort to restore long-term unemployment insurance benefits for 1.3 million Americans sputtered Tuesday amid bitter procedural disagreements.

Negotiators from both sides of the aisle had been working to get a deal to extend the jobless aid that expired at the end of last year. But after a promising vote to advance the legislation last week and optimism late Monday, a potential compromise unraveled when the two sides failed to agree on a process to consider changes to the legislation, including proposals for how (or whether) to pay for it.

A vote to move the bill forward – requiring 60 votes — failed 55-45, and a separate bipartisan proposal failed 52-48. Negotiators say they are still working to find middle ground, although the Senate faces other urgent fiscal business before a scheduled recess next week.

I continue to lack the faith in bipartisanship that has caused many commenters to assume that Republicans would never dare to stop extending unemployment benefits during a time of mass unemployment. My basis for this skepticism is “everything about the contemporary Republican party passim.” Their position is unpopular, but they don’t care.

Comments (82)

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  1. Murc says:

    I continue to lack the faith in bipartisanship that has caused many commenters to assume that Republicans would never dare to stop extending unemployment benefits during a time of mass unemployment.

    Did a lot of commenters assume Republicans wouldn’t do this because of a faith in bipartisanship, or because of other reasons?

    I freely admit I was one of the people who thought that UI benefits would be extended, but it had nothing to do with faith in bipartisanship; it had to do with the fact that the tea caucus (by which I mean the actual guys in Congress, not the people on the ground) seemed like it was somewhat subdued after losing hard on the shutdown and the optics on UI are really, really, REALLY bad. Like crazy bad.

    I assumed the establishment Republicans would cut a deal along the lines of “okay, here; we’ll give you another UI extension, but in exchange we get to keep calling you all commies and you give us some kinda fiscal fig leaf.” At worst, I assumed the money would come from further slashing other social spending somewhere else.

    Now, clearly I was wrong about this, but my thoughts on the matter had nothing at all to do with some sort of faith in the bipartisan process, and I don’t recall many other people, especially not here, expressing that kind of gauzy sentiment.

    • joe from Lowell says:

      Scott’s referring to the deal in the 2010 lame-duck session.

      Numerous commenters assured us that Obama made a terrible deal, because one of the Democratic “gets” was the extension of UI, which the Republicans were obviously going to pass anyway, deal or no deal.

      • Scott Lemieux says:

        Right — look at any thread that discussed the 2010 deal.

      • Murc says:

        Oh, the *2010* deal.

        That makes a hell of a lot more sense.

        (I was wrong there, too, and for nearly the exact same reasons, but it makes a lot more sense.)

      • Mary Rosh says:

        That was a different Congress and one that was far less Tea Party influenced. It is not at all clear that this vote means that a similar vote in 2010 would have the same outcome. But then understanding other people’s arguments are not really among you or Scott’s strongpoints

        • Random says:

          How is it not clear that this vote indicates that a similar vote in 2010 would have had the same outcome? The GOP would have filibustered UI extension in 2010, yes. The goal is to drag down GDP and employment and blame them both on Obama. Nothing’s changed since then.

        • joe from Lowell says:

          That was a different Congress and one that was far less Tea Party influenced. It is not at all clear that this vote means that a similar vote in 2010 would have the same outcome.

          Ah, the myth of the reasonable Republicans of yesteryear.

          That was the Republican Party that had supported a stimulus package under Bush, then opposed it under Obama. Supported low interest rates under Bush, opposed them under Obama. Supported deficit spending under Bush, opposed it under Obama. But they totally wouldn’t have similarly flip-flopped on yet another economic-assistance policy under Obama.

          You know, it’s almost as if, by the end of 2010, some really far-sighted people were able to figure out that the Republicans were engaging in deliberate economic sabotage as a way of damaging Barack Obama politically.

          We don’t even need the very clear evidence that this recent episode provides to know that the Republicans would stiff the country on unemployment insurance. We just need to have some familiarity with the oh-so-totally-not-Tea-Party-influenced Republican Congress of 2010.

        • Scott Lemieux says:

          It is not at all clear that this vote means that a similar vote in 2010 would have the same outcome.

          Since the argument in 2010 was pretty much “Republicans have always done it so clearly they’d have to again,” I’m not sure what’s actually changed. Nor do I see any change in legislative strategy between 2010 and 2014 — perhaps you have an example?

    • mds says:

      the optics on UI are really, really, REALLY bad.

      Indeed. The optics are so bad that most major media outlets have spent the last week shrieking how it’s all Harry Reid’s fault for being such a big ol’ meanie.

      • TrexPushups says:

        Things like that are why this horribly evil move makes so much sense for the republicans.

        Several reasons why this is smart and evil politics:
        1 this hurts the economy which hurt democrats at the ballot.
        2 they think the ACA will be a big weight on the democrats and will overwhelm any discussion of this
        3 it fires up the “moocher” hating base
        4 it will be reported in such a way that the blood will not be on their hands.

  2. kindasorta says:

    It must be hard for Jeff Merkley not to wear a T-shirt saying “Told you so” to the Senate floor every day.

  3. JMP says:

    A vote “requiring 60 votes” is against a filibuster, mainstream media, the word is a filibuster. Remember that? You used that word every one of the (much rarer) times the Democrats used one back when the Republicans controlled the Senate, yet since 2006 you seem to have decided to forgotten that word exists.

    But remember, this is our “liberal media”, even though just paying attention to the mainstream media for a few minutes shows the rather overt right-wing bias it actually has.

    • R. Porrofatto says:

      Exactly. The word filibuster is nowhere to be found in the linked article. And the word Republican doesn’t appear at all in the lead paragraphs excerpted above.

      Rather than saying the bill failed 55-45, howzabout: “The 55-45 majority couldn’t break the Republican filibuster against extending unemployment benefits, preventing the bill from coming to a vote in the Senate.”

      Of course, this takes more words or something, and bandwidth is at a premium, soon to be even more so.

  4. somethingblue says:

    If only there were some way to introduce a system such that bills moved forward if a majority of Senators voted for them.

    • Pat says:

      The Republicans appear to be daring the Democrats to move further in that direction.

      One theory on this (advanced by J. Bernstein) is that each time any Republican Senator votes with the Democrats on cloture, he loses conservative cred, even if he knows that the vote is vital to the country’s well-being. It’s because the rewards for good governance have become divorced from support in the primary on the right. Every single act of deviance from the party line counts against one, even if it’s objectively beneficial.

      • Brad Nailer says:

        “Every single act of deviance from the party line counts against one, even if it’s objectively beneficial.” Statement of fact, sadly.

  5. Derelict says:

    Never forget the GOP’s view of unemployment: The unemployed have no-one but themselves to blame for their plight. Thus, the failure to find a job (or found a company) is a sign of great moral deficiency that must be punished.

    After all, if we don’t make being poor as miserable, dangerous, and denigrating as possible, then EVERYONE will want to be poor.

    • The extra-special benefit, is that the unemployed who still have 401K’s left will start to withdraw money, paying heavy fines and taxes – until there’s nothing left.

      I know, I did that 5 years ago when I first became unemployed, and wasn’t eligible for UI because I had quit.

      And the beauty is, that after their 401K’s are kaput, our Republicans, “The Party of Personal Responsibility,” can lecture those same people for not being personally responsible enough to save-up for their old age.

      And these moochers, takers, and parasites, should be punished by lowering their SS payments.

      WIN-WIN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      • ericblair says:

        And the beauty is, that after their 401K’s are kaput, our Republicans, “The Party of Personal Responsibility,” can lecture those same people for not being personally responsible enough to save-up for their old age.

        Yep. If you’re a .01%er with no morals to speak of, you want to push all risk down on the underclass to get it off of you. This also keeps the underclass panicked and preoccupied with their own problems. Bonus points if you can make them look responsible for their own lot as well and get them fighting with each other. Also, make sure there’s a nice big moat around poverty (like benefit phaseouts and glass ceilings) that make sure the underclass stays under.

        • BigHank53 says:

          I confess I find it astonishing the number of mega-rich folks who have never considered how much of their wealth is, in fact, quite flammable, and that it isn’t really in their long term interest to create a population of tens of millions of people with absolutely nothing to lose.

      • (Shakezula) says:

        It is kind of weird that these guys are the ones that have been encouraging everyone to stockpile guns and ammo.

        I suppose if they have any ideas beyond Piss off Liberals and Collect Check from Lobbyists, they think the white people will shoot the brown people, but given that very few people will have enough money or energy maybe they’re hoping people will keep it in the family, thereby reducing the population.

        Sort of an in-home Hunger Games.

      • DrS says:

        Extra bonus:

        Those who’s 401k’s did work out now have a lot more solidarity with the top economically than they may have otherwise.

        That way, the real top % don’t even have to do the dirty work.

        • efgoldman says:

          Those who’s 401k’s did work out now have a lot more solidarity with the top economically than they may have otherwise.

          Not necessarily true.
          My 401k is doing pretty well(*) (after going into the toilet in 2008-09, like everyone else’s). But I hate the one percenters, hate the TeaHadis even more, and last voted GOBP in 1972.

          (*)Of course, after 2008-09, I had to change my plans to work until age 70, so it had a chance to come back.

  6. (Shakezula) says:

    Don’t call it leaving over a million Americans and their dependents without means of support. Call it an intervention to wean Americans off the addiction of welfare.

  7. aimai says:

    Did anyone think that this current Republican party was at all responsive to “public opinion?” I sure didn’t. As for “bipartisan”–the most meaningless word in a political landscape littered with the corpses of words that used to have meaning–its a technical term for a relationship that simply doesn’t exist. It is literally only used by practitioners of the dark arts of legislation to refer to 1) legislation so bad both parties agree to support it for their own corrupt reasons and 2) legislation so good that one party sinks it without even permitting a single vote across party lines.

    • DrDick says:

      All too true. The modern Republican Party is overwhelmingly dominated by mean spirited, delusional ideologues. They have adopted their current terrorist tactics because they know they cannot enact their policies through actual democratic means.

    • ericblair says:

      Bipartisanship is also equated to nonpartisanship, when it’s really the opposite. Nonpartisanship means passing a bill on its merits irrespective of the parties of the members involved. Bipartisanship means passing a bill irrespective of its merits because of the parties of the members involved.

      I can see a wish for a nonpartisan solution to problems, although partisanship usually is better for actually getting things done in most political systems. Bipartisanship really doesn’t make much sense: it’s supporting something just because two (and only two) supposedly ideologically opposing parties can agree on it. I can see it when ordering pizza for lunch, but as a solution to ideologically oriented problems it sucks ass.

      • somethingblue says:

        In other news:

        Senate efforts to order three large pizzas (one cheese & mushroom, two anthrax and tire rims) ground to a halt Wednesday amid bitter procedural disagreements. Sources close to Senate leadership blamed Majority Leader Harry Reid’s refusal to allow additional breadstick-related amendments …

    • Manta says:

      Support for the military-industrial complex seems pretty bipartisan.
      Support for the unfettered spying power of the executive is also bipartisan.
      Support for free trade agreements is also bipartisan.

    • DivGuy says:

      I mostly agree, but following internet protocol:

      I don’t think the responsiveness of the Republicans to public opinion is zero. At crisis levels of public opinion failure, they collapse. See the shutdown for example.

      The problem is that until the horribly unpopular things the Republicans are doing become so visible that they run the risk of sabotaging electoral prospects in ten months, they aren’t responsive to public opinion. The bet placed by today’s right is that public opinion of legislators is only affected by the actions of legislators in quite extreme and rare situations. So otherwise they can follow their paymasters and ideology with near impunity.

    • BigHank53 says:

      After the utter failure of improved background checks for gun buyers–something over 80% of the NRA’s own fucking members didn’t object to–it’s been pretty obvious that the Republican Party is working for a very small group of people indeed.

  8. Today’s GOP:
    No Scarecrow or Tinman in the Republican Oz Oz, with any “brains” or “hearts” – but plenty of Cowardly Lions, with “nerve.”

  9. JazzBumpa says:

    In other O/T news, Chris Christie still has a >50% approval rating in N.J.

    We are fucking doomed.

    • Linnaeus says:

      To be honest with you, that doesn’t surprise me a great deal. I’m less convinced that the bridge scandal will hurt Christie (in the long term) as much as I’m hearing political commentators say it well, based on what we’ve seen so far. That said, there could be more to come.

      • DrS says:

        Scandals don’t hurt they right especially if the scandalous behaviour hurts the bad people.

        Scott Walker could be indicted and he would still draw well in a Republican primary as long as his scandals are merely selling off the state of Wisconsin and screwing over labor.

        This Christie thing is a tough bully doing tough bully things.

        • somethingblue says:

          Exactly the man to make the Hard Choices™ about teh Deficit, thegreatestchallengenowfacingusasanation.

          • JKTHs says:

            Only now facing us? You mean always, no matter the circumstances.

            • somethingblue says:

              Well, there was that brief moment in the early ’00s when we had actually eliminated the deficit and were in some danger of paying down the National Debt, a major crisis that could only be headed off by a quick round of massive tax cuts for rich people.

              But otherwise, yes.

              • DrS says:

                How do you expect them to stay rich by safely loaning their money to the government if the government just taxes them for the same funding?

              • cpinva says:

                “a major crisis that could only be headed off by a quick round of massive tax cuts for rich people.”

                it also required two unfunded, unnecessary wars to help resolve. massive tax cuts for the rich just weren’t sufficient.

        • DivGuy says:

          I disagree with this. I can’t think of any uncomplicated corruption scandals that haven’t had perfectly normal effects.

          The world is not so stacked against us.

          The problem for leftish people is the corruption of the system that isn’t viewed as corruption–”the real scandal is what’s legal.” Politicians who are dirty in the old-fashioned manner of Christie, they lose when they get caught. It’s the neo-corrupt bankrolled by financiers who are the problem we need to solve.

          • efgoldman says:

            I believe the sainted James Michael Curley won an election while incarcerated, as did a much lesser Boston hack pol named Charlie Ianella in the early 60s.
            And then there’s Marian Barry….

            • cpinva says:

              unlike Christie, these three presented themselves as kind of loveably corrupt. Christie’s just an obnoxious asshole.

    • Pat says:

      It’s New Jersey. Whaddyathink was going to happen?

    • DivGuy says:

      The problem for Christie is that he needs to win the invisible primary, not the visible one. The problem with the bridge story for Christie is what it portends about other scandals and future revelations on this one. And if that’s the case, Republican elites are going to abandon him and then destroy him before he can get the nomination.

      The stories from Halperin/Heileman about the Romney team’s shock over his dirtiness suggest that this story is going to be followed by many other, similar ones in the next year or so. I think Christie’s likely to be cooked as a national politician by this time next year.

      • aimai says:

        I agree. I don’t get the despair I’m seeing that Christie hasn’t been defenestrated instantly. The pleasure of this incident is that it is the slowest moving car wreck in national history–perhaps because its stuck in traffic. Drip, Drip, Drip is what is necessary in a real scandal that doesn’t involve sex or pictures of someone’s weiner. For one thing most scandals, especially real government corruption, are kind of baked into people’s ideas of what government officials already do. So you have to have a long period of local authorities, radio people, tv people, and newspapers slowly coming around to the notion that this time its different before the ordinary person even notices that there is a new topic for discussion. But I guarantee you that if the ordinary voter opens his/her paper every day for six months to a new Christie scandal, or someone taking the fifth, it will have an effect on the “invisible primary” because Christie will be toast before he lifts the phone to call for financial backing.

        • Random says:

          Well said. This scandal definitely has legs, the nature of the action endows many thousands of people with standing to sue the administration over various aspects of it (both the jam and the cover story) and those lawsuits will still be unearthing damaging information for at least another year or two. Escaping culpability requires him to repeatedly argue that he is a very weak boss and massively incompetent as an administrator.

        • efgoldman says:

          I don’t get the despair I’m seeing that Christie hasn’t been defenestrated instantly.

          +2 for “defenestrated.”

          • aimai says:

            I actually read a fascinating not yet published account of the long–like Sumerian long–history of defenestration as an important popular form of political action. Also this summer I visited the site of the defenestration of Charles the I–he was walked out of a window onto a scaffold for his execution. Defenestration is very much more common and more important than people think! Windows! LOOK OUT.

            • DrS says:

              I was in Prague in September and visited the castle. Saw the site of the Second Defenestration of Prague.

              Sounds like a fun read.

            • cpinva says:

              funny, I thought that, traditionally, defenestration involved being either pushed or tossed out of an upper floor window, to fall down to the street below. either the landing killed you, or the very ugly crowd waiting for you tore you apart. either way, there was no formal scaffold involved.

              at least, those are the incidents of defenestration I’ve read about.

              • aimai says:

                Technically it just means going out the window but the famous one is the defenestration of prague. This guy I met is working on a book about the entire history of defenestration, though, and it goes back a long way–basically as long as major public buildings have had windows. Windows are where you show yourself to the people, windows are where women look through from the secluded areas, and windows are also where you lose your status and get forced out of palaces.

                It is odd that Charles the First was executed outside, on the second floor, on a scaffold but I suppose they thought it would enable the largest number of people to see him while keeping him indoors and under guard for the longest time. Lots of other executions of important figures were done more or less privately within doors or in inner courtyards, while executions of lower class people were done in fields or areas set apart and the dragging of the victim to the place of execution was part of the showing of political power.

                Anyway, lots to think about when you start in on defenestration.

      • Random says:

        Yup. In addition Christie’s main argument for winning the ‘invisible primary’ in the first place was that he was beating or even with HRC in the polling. He just blew around 10 approval points since the last round of presidential polling, which equates to him now being well behind her in the battleground states. It’s going to be hard for him to convince people that he’s a safe investment without that.

    • Random says:

      His approval rating was holding steady for 14 months. Then it dropped almost 10 points inside of just 1-2 weeks.

      Yes this is hurting him, its hurting him very badly, it’s only just now gotten started, and its already causing a snowball effect as other questionable actions are now getting investigated.

      Its very hard to imagine that this was done without his explicit permission. That fundamental fact isn’t going to go away as the investigations and lawsuits reveal more and more of who did what, when, and why they did it. The contradictions between his story and what actually happened are already cropping up.

  10. Davis says:

    Perhaps they know that ending UI will not only hurt a lot of people, but that it will retard GDP growth and thus be able to continue bashing Obama about the economy. This has been the plan since January 2009.

    • mds says:

      Indeed, especially since the liberal media are currently permitting them to blame the failure of the UI extension of Democrats.

      • Random says:

        Indeed, especially since the liberal media are currently permitting them to blame blaming the failure of the UI extension on Democrats.

        Fixed it for you.

  11. LeeEsq says:

    It never ends.

  12. gorillagogo says:

    Every time I read one of these “Congress is unlikely to pass this important legislation before the next recess” stories, I wonder why the hell are they going on recess before getting this shit done? I don’t have the luxury of going on vacation from my job if I’m behind on my work.

    I think Reid should keep the Senate in session until a bill gets passed. If the GOP wants to filibuster everything they should at least be inconvenienced by having to give up their damn recess.

  13. e.a.f. says:

    it is to be hoped voters remember this come the next election or even while deciding who will run for the party in the next election. when these representatives say NO to extending U.I. benefits, to more than a million people, they are saying they don’t care whether they pay their mortgages, can buy healthcare for themselves and their children, nor even feed their children.

    Perhaps what needs to happen is a lot of these people to go to washington, form a line, with their children and hold up signs which say, everyday you dick around with my U.I. my child gets closer to not eating. When can the children eat.

    Now we know some don’t care, because they cut food stamps, but it will make a nice visual. Sort of like the things we see in other countries when there are food riots. It is clear the U.S.A. is no better than any other 3rd world dictorship.

    • aimai says:

      Worse than the child not eating–which doesn’t necessarily happen–is that people get evicted from their homes and communities thus moving in a stroke from registered voters to vagrants. I don’t think that the Republican party has thought this through but its far from clear to me that people who have gotten evicted from their homes and ended up homeless or in section 8 apartments get reregistered to vote at all, or easily connect back up to the system in order to “punish” whichever political party they feel failed them. And that is what is going to happen when the UI benefits vanish: people are going to fall directly out of the middle and working class and never be able to climb back up.

      • cpinva says:

        oh, I beg to differ my dear aimai! I bet they’ve thought it through quite a bit. dispossessed people tend, as you note, to not be registered to vote. those same people also tended to vote democratic. dispossessing them makes it far less likely they’ll vote at all, thus reducing the potential # of democratic votes, come the next election.

        • aimai says:

          Yes but also, no. I read an article linked on TPM this morning from Colorado Springs, one of the most conservative parts of the country, let alone Colorado. They interviewed a lifelong republican woman who said quite flatly that if they kicked her off her unemployment she was switching and voting democratic. A whole lot of older, white, lifelong republican voters are in the long term unemployed category right now and it is just now dawning on them that its a long, long, long way down to the bottom once you get kicked off that UI rung.

  14. cpinva says:

    ” Their position is unpopular, but they don’t care.”

    this is true only in the national sense. in their own state, their position is quite popular amongst the teaberry set that elected them, and will re-elect them, as the result of votes such as this. they don’t have to care what the rest of the country thinks of them, because the rest of the country doesn’t vote in their state’s elections.

  15. Anonymous says:

    In any sane government, if a measure failed 55-45, it would mean 55 people voted against it.

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