Earlier this week, the Senate finally voted 60-40 to extend unemployment insurance for the millions of Americans who are unable to find work due to the poor economy. One senator who voted against extending these benefits was Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE), who cited the deficit as his reason for opposing an extension. He gave the following statement to the press:
“I support extending unemployment benefits for Nebraskans and Americans who remain out of work. However, I opposed the Senate’s unemployment bill today because it should have, and it could have, been paid for.
“I oppose another $33 billion in deficit spending and increasing the debt. The six-month extension of unemployment benefits is a priority that can and should be funded. Some of the $70 billion in offsets included in earlier proposals could have been used to offset the $33 billion in new spending in this bill.”
However, today Nelson came out for extending the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans. While the senator cites the cost of extending unemployment benefits for Americans who are down on their luck and unable to find work as a reason to oppose extending unemployment insurance, he is endorsing massively expanding the deficit by extending Bush’s tax cuts for the richest Americans. Extending unemployment benefits has a relatively tiny budgetary cost of $33 billion, but extending the Bush tax cuts for one year alone would add $115 billion to the federal budget deficit. Effectively, the senator is not standing up for fiscal discipline — he is standing up for the richest Americans over those who are the worst off.