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GOP set to keep blocking job benefits extension

By ANDREW TAYLOR
June 24, 2010

The unemployed: They suffer while Republicans posture (AFP)

A Republican filibuster appears increasingly likely to kill long-sought legislation extending jobless benefits and a host of other spending and tax measures, despite a new round of cuts to the measure Wednesday that reduced its deficit impact even further.

A senior Senate Democratic aide said Wednesday evening that several days’ worth of negotiations with a handful of moderate Republicans had failed and that a vote later this week to break the filibuster was likely to fail as well. Democrats would then abandon the measure. The aide required anonymity to speak frankly about internal party deliberations.

Failure to pass the bill would mean about 200,000 jobless people a week would lose benefits that average more than $300 a week because they would be unable to reapply for additional tiers of benefits enacted since 2008. Governors denied help with their budget woes are likely to lay off tens of thousands of state workers.

A new version was offered Wednesday night by Majority Leader Harry Reid and would cut about $8 billion from a state aid package dearly sought by the nation’s governors and almost $2 billion in recissions of unspent stimulus and defense money.

The grab-bag measure would extend unemployment benefits, provide cash assistance to state governments and extend dozens of tax breaks sought by business lobbyists. It includes disaster aid, $1 billion for a youth summer jobs initiative and an extension of a bond program that subsidizes interest costs for state and local infrastructure projects.

Reid, D-Nev., had been courting Maine Republicans Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe to provide the critical votes needed to defeat a GOP filibuster, and the two senators were pressing for additional cuts to the measure.

The pared-back measure would add about $36 billion to the deficit over the upcoming decade, according to preliminary estimates, which is the cost of extending unemployment for the long-term jobless. When the debate started three weeks ago, Reid pressed a version that would have added almost $80 billion to the deficit.

But Snowe and Collins were withholding support, however.

“It’s clear that a great deal of progress has been made and I’m pleased with that,” Collins told reporters.

“They’re responding to some of the issues. We just haven’t finalized anything,” Snowe said.

The measure includes many items popular with lawmakers in both parties, including several items considered as must-do, including the further extension of unemployment insurance for people who have been out of work for more than six months, reversing a 21 percent fee cut imposed last week on doctors particpating in Medicare and renewing dozens of tax cuts.

They include a property tax deduction for people who don’t itemize, lucrative credits that help businesses finance research and develop new products, and a sales tax deduction that mainly helps people in states without income taxes.

A new version of the Senate measure began circulating Wednesday afternoon that pares back a $24 billion state aid package down to $16 billion and cuts $1.8 billion in previously appropriated money from stimulus and defense accounts, among other changes. A cut in food stamp benefits enacted last year appears to produce almost $10 billion in savings. It would cut the benefit for a family of four by about $45 a month when implemented in 2015, according to the Center of Budget and Policy Priorities, a liberal-leaning research and advocacy group.

There’s also $1 billion raised through noncontroversial reforms to a tax credit earned by the working poor.

The bill has bedeviled Democratic leaders for months. It’s become more difficult to pass as concerns about the deficit have bled GOP support since a similar bill passed more than three months ago. That measure was partially financed by relatively painless provisions including one enjoyed by paper companies that get a credit from burning “black liquor,” a pulp-making byproduct, as if it were an alternative fuel.

But that provision was used to help finance the massive health care overhaul. Democrats spent weeks coming to agreement on more controversial ways to replace the lost revenue, which include a new tax on investment fund managers and reforms aimed at small businesses that shelter income as dividends exempt from payroll taxes.

Deficit pressures are being felt in the House as well, where Democratic leaders are pressing a $7 billion cut in President Barack Obama’s budget for the next fiscal year.

Democratic aides said Wednesday that the cuts will be implemented as Democrats pass a short-term budget plan cutting deeper than Obama’s proposed freeze of the annual operating budgets of domestic agencies.

The cut amounts to less than 1 percent of the more than $1.1 trillion proposed for agency budgets funded by lawmakers each year through the spending bills. The next fiscal year begins Oct. 1.

The aides spoke on condition of anonymity because the plan has not been formally announced.

Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said Tuesday that the House won’t pass a longer term budget plan, a move that was met with scorn by Republicans, who charge Democrats with abdicating a basic responsibility of governing and of failing to have any plan to deal with the deficit.

The Maryland Democrat says that job should be left to Obama’s fiscal commission. But the decision against passing a budget frees Democrats from having to cast politically painful votes for huge budget deficits.

Copyright © 2010 The Associated Press

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5 Responses to GOP set to keep blocking job benefits extension

  1. Concerned Citizen

    June 24, 2010 at 10:20 am

    Remember when one by one steel, autos, textiles, furniture and many other industries were being shut down and given away, with nothing in return ? Pronouncements from Washington assured us we were better off, citing pension and medical costs and the need to phase them out in favor of cheap imports. Optimists said don’t worry, dreaming loudly of the coming high tech information age, the magic bullet that will someday propel us from the abyss. Today of course those same voices are largely silent as the majority of advanced degrees in math, science, medicine, and engineering are awarded by America’s finest universities to foreign students, and as U.S. corporations routinely export fundamental technologies while simultaneously importing thousands of H-1B engineering and software professionals from the vast pools of technical talent in India and China where the newest R&D centers have been built. And neither are they saying much about the billions of dollars flowing into banking industry bonuses at a time high school teachers in math and science are lucky to have jobs, never mind the mediocre pay. What should be clear by now . . . . policies like these explain rapidly growing deficits, bankrupt governments, and ranks of jobless Americans far more accurately than temporary effects of a recession. We can only hope elected officials soon realize that true superpower status can not be sustained by a superficial debt ridden economy built on derivatives, strip malls, $10/hr jobs, and cheap imports at Walmart.

    • griff

      June 24, 2010 at 10:29 am

      Well said.

  2. Mightymo

    June 24, 2010 at 10:44 am

    Although I dislike it having to happen, I can understand why someone must finally take a stand against deficit spending. I find it ironic however that it’s the Republiscum who are taking the stand, and chosing to take it once again at the expense of the needy American citizen!
    If I had my choice, I would think that providing this money to the unemployed would be much more beneficial than say providing it to the military who seem all to intent on wasting it on reenlistment bonuses, TDY’s, and new office furniture. Do you know that reenlistment bonuses now average around 60K range for 4 more years of service!
    To take the cut from the military budget, and to pay it to the unemployed is in my opinion a better option. But of course Repubs would never consider that idea because this war is their war, and the military budget puts a huge chunk of money into the hands of their corporate buddies.

    • griff

      June 24, 2010 at 6:09 pm

      Wasn’t that the Democrat mantra of 2006 and 2008?

      ” We can’t keep spending money that we don’t have in a war that we shouldn’t have fought. We can’t keep mortgaging our children’s future on a mountain of debt. We can’t keep driving a wider and wider gap between the few who are rich and the rest who struggle to keep pace. It’s time to turn the page.” – Barack Obama, 2008

      “In every election, politicians come to your cities and your towns, and they tell you what you want to hear, and they make big promises, and they lay out all these plans and policies. But then they go back to Washington when the campaign’s over. Lobbyists spend millions of dollars to get their way. The status quo sets in. And instead of fighting for health care or jobs, Washington ends up fighting over the latest distraction of the week. It happens year after year after year.

      Well this is your chance to say “Not this year.” This is your chance to say “Not this time.” We have a choice in this election.” – Barack Obama, 2008

      “The American people are tired of a Washington that’s only open to those with the most cash and the right connections. They’re tired of a political process where the vote you cast isn’t as important as the favors you can do. And they’re tired of trusting us with their tax dollars when they see them spent on frivolous pet projects and corporate giveaways.” – Barack Obama, 2008

      “We can choose to go another four years with the same reckless fiscal policies that have busted our budget, wreaked havoc in our economy, and mortgaged our children’s future on a mountain of debt; or we can restore fiscal responsibility in Washington by starting to wind down a war in Iraq that’s costing $10 billion a month, by cutting wasteful spending, by shutting corporate loopholes and tax havens, and by rolling back the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans.” – Barack Obama, 2008

      I just love these walks down Memory Lane – they really warm the heart.

      Hahahahahahaha.

  3. woody188

    June 24, 2010 at 3:07 pm

    Meanwhile, they’ll pass $58 billion in deficit spending for war making half the world away. How many tanks and helicopters have we buried in the sandbox?