Democrats tried to keep that from happening. By Thursday, some hundred of them in the House had signed Rep. Gary Peters's letter asking Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor to cancel the recess in order to renew the federal Emergency Unemployment Compensation program that lapsed last month. To no avail.
When Republicans let the EUC expire at the end of December, 1.35 million Americans who had been out of work for more than 26 weeks were cut off from the government checks designed to keep a roof over their heads and food on the table until they could find a job. In addition to those, it's estimated that another 70,000 receiving state compensation are passing the 26-week mark each week. Before Dec. 28, they could count on getting the federally funded emergency compensation for another 14 to 47 weeks, depending on which state they live in.
Now they are, as the vulgar proverb has it, up shit creek with no paddle. While they are there, at least one Republican thinks these stranded Americans should just learn how to fish.
Please read below the fold for more on Congress and job compensation.
If there's no resolution of the matter when Congress reconvenes, an estimated total of 4.9 million out-of-work Americans will lose out on compensation they would have received in 2014.
Reporters Arthur Delaney and Samantha Lachman wonder why Democrats aren't staying in D.C. during the recess to put the spotlight on vacationing Republicans while tens of thousands of Americans are added to the list of those who can't pay the rent.
That might make for good optics. You know, lazy Republicans, hardworking Democrats. But already, for weeks, Democrats have been focusing on the unemployment compensation disaster where it will do the most good: on Republican representatives' home turf. Local media across the nation have diligently reported how many people in their own backyards have lost compensation because of Republican intransigence. This local tactic is likely to be a lot more effective than hanging out in Washington.
As I've argued a dozen times over the past few years, what is really needed is a revamping of the entire 79-year-old unemployment compensation program. Bridging the gap for out-of-work people both in times of economic growth and recession should not be made to depend on the whims of politicians who think those receiving compensation are luxuriating layabouts playing Xbox and eating bonbons instead of hunting for jobs. The revamping should include a modernized Works Progress Administration that includes direct government hiring, subsidies or full funding for apprenticeships and other training. Fantasyland, I know, but Social Security and Medicare started as fantasies, too.
In the short run, however, as the pain keeps spreading, Democrats need to hammer every day on the obstructionists who blame jobless Americans for an economic situation not of their own making.