Republicans To Unemployed: Drop Dead

Bill Scher

Republicans today ended all doubt: They do not want to help the long-term unemployed. Given a bill that would help for a mere three extra months without adding to the deficit, Republicans refused to let the majority rule and filibustered the legislation.

If only one more Republican had voted “aye,” more than 1 million long-term unemployed would again have access to unemployment insurance.

But two Republicans voted “no” who had previously voted “aye” to prevent a filibuster earlier in the process: Sens. Rob Portman and Dan Coats.

Portman has not yet given an explanation, but Coats complained that Democrats did not incorporate his amendment to, in his words, “prohibit individuals from receiving Emergency Unemployment Compensation benefits if they fail to accept any offer of suitable work or if they refuse to apply for suitable work referred to them by a state employment agency.”

Such a provision would force family breadwinners to choose between taking massive pay cuts for low-wage “suitable” work or being cut off from unemployment insurance. Yet for Coats, if Democrats won’t agree to put these heads of households in cruel Catch-22s, then he will just cut them off now.

Another Republican with some explaining to do is Sen. Mark Kirk, who voted for a filibuster earlier after saying, “If Harry gave us an offset, I’d be a yes.” Today, Harry did, and he still voted “no.” As of this writing, he has yet to explain why.

But all 42 Republicans need to answer for this vote. Why did they decide now was the time to cut off aid to the long-term unemployed, when we could help them at no cost to the taxpayers, at a time when there are three unemployed workers for every one job opening and those out of work for more than six months have the hardest time getting job interviews?

The Republican Party is now standing squarely against help for the unemployed, at any cost. And unless they shift before November, they will have to take that message to the voters.

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