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Senate Republicans Kill Aid to States, Unemployed

Jeremy Sprinkle
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Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) cares not for the unemployed.

It takes a Senate of millionaires to hold us back

Outrageous. Stunningly callous. Business as usual for the minority party in our dysfunctional Senate.

All of these are ways to describe the Republican-led effort to filibuster - repeatedly - and successfully kill a jobs bill, aid to the states, and extensions of vital unemployment insurance and COBRA benefits.

Senator Richard Burr voted with his party against Democratic efforts to pass anything - even a bill vastly paired down from the comprehensive jobs bill the House already approved.

Arthur Delaney at the Huffington Post reports on the doomed effort of Senate Democrats to appease deficit peacocks:

"But after jettisoning several provisions to help the old, the poor and the jobless, reducing the bill's ten-year deficit impact down from $134 billion to just $33 billion, the bill is still sinking. Not a single Republican is willing to lend support and Nebraska Democrat Ben Nelson is still holding out, leaving Democrats two votes short of the 60 needed to overcome a filibuster."

On June 1, extended unemployment insurance for 1.2 million Americans expired. The bill Senate Democrats tried to pass would have extended those benefits through the end of the year. Subsidies of COBRA benefits - the only way workers can keep health insurance after losing their jobs - also expired. Aid to states to avoid massive teacher layoffs beginning July 1 - up to 900,000 jobs - also failed.

From Mike Hall, reporting for AFL-CIO Now Blog:

The Republican blockade means about 250,000 unemployed workers a week lose their benefits, which averages around $300 a week, while Republican lawmakers take in a nifty $3,346.16 a week of taxpayers’ money.

Maybe if they spent a few months out of work in an economy where the unemployment rate is near 10 percent, at least 15 million people are out of work and 6.8 million people have been out of work for 27 weeks or more, they wouldn’t be so cavalier in calling for “tough love” for the unemployed and telling them they’re just not looking hard for work.

Seventy-three years later, history repeats itself

In 1937, Republicans in Congress convinced President Franklin Roosevelt to stop spending to reduce unemployment and instead focus on balancing the budget. The result was the so-called "Roosevelt Recession" when unemployment doubled.

David Welna of National Public Radio covered the historical perspective this morning:

Many economists agree that government spending - even with borrowed money - gives a boost to the overall economy, especially one battered by the worst recession in most peoples' lifetime.

"The Depression, as bad as it was, would have been much worse without the government spending," says Alan Brinkley, a historian of the Depression at Columbia University. "And the 1937 effort to balance the budget - I think almost every economist would agree - was a catastrophe."

Killing jobs to defend the super rich

The jobs bill that Republicans killed in the Senate would have cost $3.5 billion a year over the next decade. As noted here, our tax system currently subsidizes the incomes of the richest 400 individuals to the tune of $18 billion every year.

Tula Connell breaks it down at the AFL-CIO Now Blog

So, in short: Republicans in Congress are out of touch with the American people and are working with the growing group of millionaires - like coal mine owner Don Blankenship of Massey Energy Co. and BP CEO Tony Hayward - to ride roughshod over those whose sweat and hard work built this nation.

When you hear Republican Senators like Richard Burr crow about how reducing the deficit is more important than passing legislation to provide a paltry $300 a week in unemployment insurance to laid-off workers, many of whom have been out of work more than a year, he's telling you all you need to know about Republican priorities for our country:

"Let them eat cake."