Senate Unemployment Extension Reaches Cloture
...yesterday by a 60-40 vote. The Senate votes on its final version today.
It was the closest you could get to a hard line party vote without actually having one. Maine's Republican Senators Snowe and Collins voted to extend benefits and were joined by both independents Joe Lieberman of CT and Bernie Sanders of Vermont. Ben Nelson of Nebraska did as Ben Nelson of Nebraska usually does and sided with the Republicans knowing fully good and well the opposition didn't have the votes to deny cloture.
Once the extension bill passes in the Senate, all that remains is for Congress to pass the reconciled bill and for President Obama to sign it into law. That should be a mere formality as both the House (which passed its version before the week-long summer recess) and Senate had drafted stripped-down versions of the bill that doesn't include provisions for job creation or tax incentives for businesses.
While Republicans were dicking around and affecting faux outrage over red ink, approximately 2,000,000 people (or 182,000 people a week) had lost their unemployment benefits since early April's eight week-long extension expired on May 1st. The current bill will reinstate benefits for many for at least 16 weeks at a weekly average of $309.
Since it can be reliably posited that virtually every penny of the money that will be disbursed, hopefully, by this week will make a bee-line straight into the economy, that means Republicans and a handful of Blue Dog Democrats like Ben Nelson deprived the American economy of over $6,000,000,000 since the unemployment bill was stalled.
Assuming that 182,000 people per week had lost their benefits, let's multiply that by 11 weeks, prorated by those 182,000 unemployed workers and subtracting $56,238,000 each week (what their $309 in weekly benefits would've come to) and that comes out to $6,179,383,000 or almost 6.2 billion starved from the national economy since these benefits expired week by week.
This, in turn, places additional burden on the states and districts they represent. Local food banks, city shelters, welfare agencies are also feeling the pinch from being asked to take up the slack. Utility companies, their bills going unpaid, were also deprived from operating revenue. The local economies of districts and municipalities with high rates of unemployment have also taken a beating because consumer spending had been sharply curtailed during the freeze.
Think about that on election day this November. In most cases, the Democrats have been a miserable failure but it was still them, with two independents and two Republicans, who gave us that money to put back into the economy and gave millions of us breathing room. The Democrats, not the Republicans.
Those who've lost their benefits during the dry spell ought to get what was due to them retroactively meaning that some long-overdue bills will finally get paid. But long-unpaid bills also come with penalty fees for being paid late, meaning that more of that meager $309 per week will get spent on late fees and penalty surcharges to their creditors instead of going for food and other necessities.
So the temporary damage the GOP did to their states' and districts' economies will be fixed in time but to the people who've been waiting months for these benefits to kick in, they will be the losers since they will not be reimbursed for committing the crimes of being indigent.