Yesterday, the Senate failed to extend unemployment benefits through next year, leaving over 2 million unemployed Americans without crucial aid in the midst of the holiday season. Senate Republicans refused to consider a year-long extension unless the cost is fully paid for. A particularly incensed Sen. Scott Brown delivered a “fiery speech” on the Senate floor last night, lambasting Democrats “for what he considers to be unwarranted diversions.” “We spent seven days on food safety!” Brown scoffed and reassured unemployed workers that “I have complete and total sympathy and understanding” and that “more than anybody here, I want to help.”
However, when Democrats offered him that opportunity, he single-handedly slapped away the chance. Trying to beat the clock, Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) introduced a proposal Monday to extend benefits through 2011 at a cost of $56 billion without offsets. But when Democrats tried to pass the proposal yesterday, Brown blocked the effort, complaining that he’d “just found out” about it:
Hours before beefed-up benefits were set to expire at midnight, Democrats sought to extend them for another year. But they were blocked by Republican Senator Scott Brown, who said Democrats should have taken time to work out a compromise.
“It’s not the way to do business in the United States Senate, and if it is it needs to change,” Brown said. “We just found out today, or late yesterday, that we were even going to talk about this.”
After his objection, Brown offered his own proposal for a year-long extension as long as the Office of Management and Budget finds funds from already approved appropriations to pay for it. But Democrats turned down the plan because, as Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI) noted, “we have to deal with the immediate crisis” and “the families that are struggling today.” This, of course, was the governing philosophy of both parties when they passed unemployment extension seven times under the Bush Administration. In fact, before yesterday, Congress went 40 years without allowing extended unemployment benefits to expire when the unemployment rate was above 7.2 percent. The unemployment rate today stands at 9.6 percent.
But, in a video released this morning, Brown defended his opposition, saying he “disagreed” that Congress should “pay for unemployment benefits” by “putting more debt on the credit card.” A curious position considering Brown is more than happy to slap the nation with a $830 billion bill in order to extend the Bush tax cuts for the top two percent of wealthy Americans. In touting the GOP’s absurd logic, Brown and his GOP colleagues champion an extension that provides “virtually no economic stimulus,” while rebuking one that “contribute[s] powerfully to the economic growth that is vital for a healthy budget.”
This morning, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick (D) called Brown’s vote against 60,000 Massachusetts workers “outrageous” and a “question of national character.” “We need Scott Brown to see and be worried about the people of the Commonwealth who are trying to get groceries on the table while they continue to look for work,” he said. But, according to his schedule, Brown is busy focusing on his Christmas-themed fundraisers this week.