Back in February, Sen. Jim Bunning (R-KY), backed by a handful of Republican Senators, took a well-publicized stand against an extension of unemployment benefits, repeatedly objecting to motions to move the extension and telling Democrats trying to approve the benefits, “tough sh*t.”
One month later, Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) expressed regret that Republicans hadn’t supported Bunning en masse, saying, “we didn’t give him as much help as we probably should have.” And the Senate GOP seems to have taken that to heart, as today Bloomberg details how “almost every Republican” in the Senate is now jumping aboard the Bunning express:
It turns out U.S. Senator Jim Bunning was ahead of the curve. Four months after the Kentucky Republican made colleagues squirm by blocking an extension of unemployment benefits for Americans out of work long-term, the party has adopted his cause as its own…“Our party caught up with the people Bunning was already with,” said New Hampshire Republican Judd Gregg.
“This is the issue across the country,” said Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX). “We’ve had a few primaries and elections along the way and people understand the ferocity of the public’s view on this.”
Actually, it would seem that people don’t understand the “ferocity of the public’s view” when it comes to this issue, as a recent Gallup poll showed that 60 percent of Americans favor additional government spending in order to boost job creation. Just today, a group of leading economists released a “manifesto calling for more government stimulus and tax credits to put America back to work.” “The urgent need is for government to replace the lost purchasing power of the unemployed and their families and to employ other tax-cut and spending programs to boost demand,” they wrote.
The Republicans blocking these extensions claim to be doing so because they don’t want to add to the deficit. But even deficit hawks aren’t buying that rationale. “Attacking that is not attacking the real deficit issue,” said Bob Bixby, executive director of the Concord Coalition (which does nothing but advocate for balanced budgets). “Unemployment benefits seem to have been in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
Due to the Republican filibuster, almost 3.2 million Americans have seen benefits that they expected to receive unceremoniously yanked away, at a time when there are five workers for every job opening and 45.5 percent of the unemployed have been out of work for at least six months. Never before has Congress allowed benefits to lapse with unemployment so high.
Fortunately, Carte Goodwin, who is replacing the late Sen. Robert Byrd (D-WV) in the Senate, will be sworn in tomorrow, and with his vote, Democratic leaders are “optimistic” that they can “break the impasse and restore the benefits.” Today, President Obama pushed for the GOP to give up on its obstruction. “For a long time, there’s been a tradition — under both Democratic and Republican presidents — to offer relief to the unemployed. That was certainly the case under my predecessor, when Republican Senators voted several times to extend emergency unemployment benefits. But right now, these benefits — benefits that are often a person’s sole source of income while they’re out of work — are in jeopardy,” he said.