Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME)
Though emergency unemployment aid made it through a first procedural vote in the Senate on Tuesday, it faces a tough road with a lot of uncertainty and fear for the 1.3 million and counting people who've lost benefits. Five out of the six Republican senators who voted yes on Tuesday have said they won't keep voting yes on the bill, which faces another 60-vote threshold, unless measures to pay for it are included (which, given who we're talking about, means cuts to other programs). And obviously John Boehner's House is unlikely to take up a clean bill unless it faces an immense amount of political pain for not doing so.
Even for just a three-month bill that buys time to work out a deal on a longer extension, Republicans are insisting on offsetting cuts. The question is how Democrats will face down these demands on such a high-priority bill:
Obama called at least three key Republicans — Sens. Susan Collins (Maine), Mark Kirk (Ill.) and Rob Portman (Ohio) — in the run-up to the vote, signaling that he is willing to discuss other spending cuts.
“When he called, the president did not eliminate the possibility of paying for an extension, but he did not get into how exactly he would do that,” Collins said Tuesday.
White House advisers said that Obama is willing to discuss spending offsets only for a longer-term extension of unemployment benefits, not the three-month bill under consideration.
And as always, Democrats should be pushing not just for less harmful cuts but for additional revenue if they're going to concede the Republican myth that governments shouldn't do deficit spending to boost the economy. Cannibalizing one important government service to fund another is not a long-term route to recovery. But, as we know, Republicans aren't actually interested in recovery. They're interested in repealing Obamacare, building the Keystone pipeline, and hurting unemployed or poor people. And if some Republicans aren't interested in the last item on that list, now would be a great time to show it with one simple vote.
Sign and send a petition your Republican senator or senators, demanding that they restore benefits to the Emergency Unemployment Compensation program.