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Unemployment Benefits Extension Passes First Cloture Vote

To the surprise of some the Senate bill to extend unemployment benefits passed its first Cloture Vote with the support of six Republicans:

The Senate begins an even tougher task after a surprise vote on Tuesday to break a GOP filibuster of legislation extending unemployment benefits.

That is: Finding a way to pay for the measure.

Democrats were able to secure six Republican votes to advance the three-month extension of unemployment benefits, nabbing just the 60 votes that are necessary to move ahead. But now they must work with centrist Republicans to strike a bipartisan accord that would offset the legislation’s $6.5 billion cost, a tall task in a Senate still brimming with partisan divisions.

But it’s not at all clear that the Republicans who sided with Democrats to break the filibuster will vote for final passage. Two of them said Tuesday they would likely oppose it without the offsets they are seeking.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said he spoke to White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough on Tuesday about finding spending cuts or new revenue to pay for the bill — McDonough told Reid he’d “run the traps” on it. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) has also begun discussing pay-for proposals with Democrats.

Though Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) seemed buoyed by Reid and McDonough’s openness to find a way to fund the bill, Reid warned that there’s no such thing as easy money in this political climate.

“If they come with something that’s serious, I’ll talk to them. But right now everyone should understand, the low-hanging fruit is gone,” Reid said.

Senate Democrats hope to hold a vote on final passage by the end of the week ahead of work on a government spending bill that must pass before Jan. 15.

Forgive me, Senator Reid, but I find it hard to believe that there isn’t room in a nearly $4 trillion budget for cutbacks in spending or tax credits/subsidies to find the relatively paltry amount needed to fund this extension. It’s there. Now, get to work finding it. You too, Republicans.

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. desmios says:

    Didn’t we just commit $80 billion to Afghanistan? Could we maybe squeak by with $73.5 billion over there?

    It’s really time for a revolution.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 1

  2. rudderpedals says:

    We can afford to spend a lot more than that and have it all but the GOP insists on turning easy decisions like this one, repeatedly, into Sophie’s choice.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1

  3. stonetools says:

    IMO, the Senate Republicans looked at facing repeated votes going on record denying the UI extension -and flinched. Hanging tough works.

    Forgive me, Senator Reid, but I find it hard to believe that there isn’t room in a nearly $4 trillion budget for cutbacks in spending or tax credits/subsidies to find the relatively paltry amount needed to fund this extension. It’s there. Now, get to work finding it. You too, Republicans.

    Except there is zero economic case for pulling government spending from elsewhere to fund UI. Not one economist that I know of thinks there is a need for this to be paid for . That’s why 14 of 17 UI extensions have been done without being pad for-including twice under GWB.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 1

  4. wr says:

    How about we pull all government funding from Rutgers and George Mason University? Would that make you happy?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  5. Andre Kenji says:

    Forgive me, Senator Reid, but I find it hard to believe that there isn’t room in a nearly $4 trillion budget for cutbacks in spending or tax credits/subsidies to find the relatively paltry amount needed to fund this extension.

    Yes, but we are not talking about the 4 trillion budget, but only about the 615 billion used for discretionary spending.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  6. C. Clavin says:

    Forgive me, Senator Reid, but I find it hard to believe that there isn’t room in a nearly $4 trillion budget for cutbacks in spending or tax credits/subsidies

    C’mon…you know damn well that the party you spend all your time carryiing water for is not about to allow any additional revenue (taxes) or cuts to subsidies. And you know they won’t allow defense cuts.
    So what you are actually saying is;

    let’s slash some more discretionary spending.

    And to that I would say that additional cuts to discretionary spending is simply robbing the middle-class…and giving it back to them under another name.
    I really wish you had the balls to own your obsession with austerity in the face of a slow recovery…and the idiocy that engenders.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  7. Pinky says:

    @C. Clavin:

    And you know they won’t allow defense cuts.

    Are you aware of what’s happened to the defense budget in the past few years?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  8. C. Clavin says:

    @Pinky:
    Oh – you mean the sequestration cuts?
    The ones that were forced on Republicans…and which were restored with the Murray/Ryan budget deal?
    Get real, Pinky.
    Defense is still over half-a-trillion dollars every single year.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  9. stonetools says:

    Jonathon Chait nails this:


    That’s why, while a handful of free-market absolutists (like Rand Paul and the Wall Street Journal editorial page) are advocating outright for an end to emergency unemployment benefits, most Republicans in Congress are approaching the issue more delicately. Instead, they are professing to favor an extension of emergency benefits, but only if the measure is paid for with offsetting spending cuts. To simply extend unemployment benefits would “add to the deficit in an irresponsible way,” complains Republican Senator Mark Kirk. Boehner has made similarly noncommittal noises.


    This isn’t a genuine expression of concern for the size of the deficit. When Republicans actually care about a policy that adds to the deficit, they just pass it and put it on the credit card. That’s how they passed the immensely costly extension of the expiring Bush tax cuts. For that matter, that’s how they passed every deficit-increasing measure during the entire time they controlled the government under Bush – wars, tax cuts, drug benefits, energy subsidies, surges — they put them all on the tab. Demanding an offset is how you stop a policy you don’t care about without having to admit you don’t care about it.

    So this might seem to offer a path for Republicans to stalemate anymore benefit extensions. After all, finding deficit savings is really hard. A few weeks ago, both parties scrounged for all the loose change they could find just to lift budget sequestration to a barely tolerable level. There are no easy cuts laying around, and Republicans won’t agree to higher taxes for any reason.

    Note that Chait points out that , No, there really ISN’T any easy way to find the amount needed to fund the extension. Back to you, Doug

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  10. Pinky says:

    @C. Clavin: I was thinking more of the cuts due to the drawdown after Afghanistan and Iraq, but there were the sequester cuts which were only about half restored, and there were also other cuts last year if I recall correctly.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  11. C. Clavin says:

    @Pinky:
    and as a percentage? there were never any significant cuts to defense.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  12. Rob in CT says:

    If this has to be financed via cuts, let’s cut war. Or procurement of dumb things (F-35). But Chait is dead right about the GOP’s position.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  13. Tyrell says:

    Pay for it by cutting off funds to places like Egypt. We don’t need to be sending all this foreign aid. . I am not against extending unemployment benefits. Most unemployed people I know will and are taking any job they can get, including folding papers and sweeping parking lots. These are people who used to have “permanent” jobs with the banks, utility companies, and other corporations. Jobs that they had for a long time, jobs that paid well and had good benefits. Jobs that at one time were considered “permanent”. These people lost their jobs through no fault of their own: cuts, while the ceo’s got huge raises and bonuses. They now take what they can get and it usually is just a temporary job, going from one low paying, unskilled job to another. These are people with high skills and college degrees. What is happening in this country? This has gone on for too long. I am very worried about the future for our young people. Will they have the standard of living that we have had? A standard that was built and given to us by the WWII generation.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  14. C. Clavin says:

    @Tyrell:
    No…because we have to cut taxes.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  15. Pinky says:

    @C. Clavin: Ballpark, about 15%.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  16. Ben Wolf says:

    But it’s not at all clear that the Republicans who sided with Democrats to break the filibuster will vote for final passage. Two of them said Tuesday they would likely oppose it without the offsets they are seeking.

    Translation: “We will not credit a reserve account without debiting another reserve account! Otherwise we’ll end up with a credit to a securities account and
    America. Can’t. Handle It. Better the unemployed go hungry!”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  17. C. Clavin says:

    @Pinky:
    You’re way high.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  18. C. Clavin says:

    @Pinky:
    Defense base budgets:
    2010 – $530B
    2011 – $549B
    2012 – $553B
    2013 – $580B
    2014 – $527B ($53B or just over 9%)
    The extension of UE benefits is estimated at $6.4B.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  19. Pinky says:

    @C. Clavin: My guess is that those numbers don’t include Iraq and Afghanistan.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  20. C. Clavin says:

    @Pinky:
    No… You guys put those on the credit card.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  21. Pinky says:

    @C. Clavin: I personally didn’t budget anything, but this isn’t about assigning blame. It’s about putting up accurate numbers. Where did you get those? Can you confirm what’s in them? I want to say that the wars were costing around $70 billion per year at their height, so if you add that in, you’re looking at maybe a 25% decline over time, compared to my ballpark of 15% and your citation of 9%. But I’m not sure.

    And again, the original question was whether the defense budget has taken a meaningful hit in recent years. You’ve said that it hasn’t. I’ve said it has.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  22. Rob in CT says:

    @Tyrell:

    IIRC, aid to Egypt is (or was) about $1B/yr. So that gets you 1/6 of the way there, or nearly that. If you want to actually get their by cutting foreign aid, you have to cut aid to Israel, and the mere suggestion of that will trigger a bipartisan tsunami of insanity.

    Foreign aid is a tiny, tiny part of the budget anyway. As noted above, a UI extension is a pittance in comparison to our War budget.

    Or we could finance it by borrowing it a basically zero interest, and paying that money back later via tiny tax increases on affluent people. OMG! Off with his head!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  23. bill says:

    i was listening to npr yesterday, some woman was going on and on about how unemployment benefits are so vital as they help people just up until they expire…..so people find jobs when they know they’re going to expire. get back to work people, we need tax payers.
    foreign aid has nothing to do with Americans who won’t take a lessor job- deal with it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 2

  24. Pinky says:

    @Pinky: No follow-up, Cliff? I’ve been looking around online, and pretty much everything I’ve seen matches my estimate more than yours. Of course, a lot of these things are budget projections that change all the time, but I’m almost positive that the numbers you cited don’t include Iraq and Afghanistan, and that the actual defense budget is falling by about 15% from its wartime high. So unless you’ve got sourced numbers to back up your claim and prove me wrong, don’t go saying that the defense budget hasn’t been cut. You don’t help your side or the conversation in general by putting out erroneous information.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  25. Grewgills says:

    @Pinky:
    So as the wars draw down, expenditures on those wars draw down. How is that relevant?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  26. Pinky says:

    @Grewgills: Clavin said that there wouldn’t be defense cuts. I said that there have been. As I understand it, there are cuts over and above the reductions after Iraq and Afghanistan, but that really isn’t the point. The point is that you can’t say defense isn’t being cut, because it is. As you note, it’s not stunning that there are defense cuts, but there are, and it’s inaccurate to say that there aren’t.

    On a broader point, it’s a sign of laziness that we talk about whether there should be more or less cuts, more or less benefits, more or less taxes without discussing their current levels. How much should our troops get paid? “More!” How high should the minimum wage be? “Higher!” How much are they now? “That’s not important! They’re not enough!” I hate that mentality.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  27. Grewgills says:

    @Pinky:
    The costs of the wars were not put into the budget directly, they were treated as special expenditures. That was done, at least in part, to avoid looking like there was a massive ramp up in defense spending. Now that the wars are drawing down, it is disingenuous to argue that as a cut in the defense budget rather than cutting the special expenditures for the wars.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  28. Pinky says:

    @Grewgills: It’d be disingenuous if I said that there was no increase ten years ago but there was a decrease today. I’m not saying that. Of course there was an increase ten years ago. Of course there’s a decrease today.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  29. Grewgills says:

    @Pinky:
    The wars were fought off the books so to speak, so expenditures on the wars are not part of the defense budget per say. It is two piles of money, or three, spent by the defense department.
    Cutting defense spending because wars are drawing down is not part of austerity measures like cutting Medicare and Social Security.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1