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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Bush Tax Cuts for Unemployment Insurance Extensions? Senate Democrats Introduce Measure S.3981

Max Baucus, U.S. Senator from Montana.Image via Wikipedia
Senator Max Baucus (D-MT) introduced
S.3981 to extend unemployment
insurance for one year, for those under
99 weeks, in the on November 29th.

On the day that up to 2 Million unemployed job seekers benefits are set to expire, leaving jobless Americans slowly losing all form of the supplemental income from today until the end of this year, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) introduced an extension bill on November 29th.

If passed, S. 3981 –A Bill to Provide for a Temporary Extension of Unemployment Insurance Provisions” would extend federal unemployment benefits through the end of 2011. The bill costs, about $56.4 billion, is not offset by cuts elsewhere in the Federal Budget. Still, the unemployment legislation renewal would cost less than the extensions of the Bush era tax cuts Republican Senate and House representatives demand, to the tune of $700 Billion.

Regardless, the bill will face opposition from Republicans and fiscally conservative Democrats who want any extension of federal unemployment benefits to be paid for. Other issues exist for the measure, as it is introduced to the Senate floor.

Similar to the September 28th vote on S.3706, "The Americans Want to Work Act", originally sponsored by Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) –who is a co-sponsor on S. 3981- the Temporary Extension of Unemployment Insurance Provision bill will be introduced by under a “suspension of the rules”.  The S.3706 bill would have extended 20 weeks of additional benefits payments to the 99ers (jobless who have exhausted between 73-99 weeks of unemployment benefits) but, was blocked by lame-duck Senator George Lemieux (R-FL), citing deficit concerns.

The measure S.3981 will also have to pass a filibuster test, were any lone Senator could raise an objection to the bill. If the objection were to stand, S.3981 would either go back to the Senate Finance Committee for review or possibly could receive another vote on the floor, after discussions with opposing Senators.

As noted in an September 29th “Reach Out Job Search” blog posting, counting on moderate Republican Senators Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine, should be tempered with caution, after the results of the November 3rd elections. Both Senators Collins and Snowe broke ranks with Republicans to vote for the HR-4213 “The Unemployment Extension Act of 2010”, which was signed into law by President Barack Obama on July 22nd.

Now, Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) appears to be changing her tone to fall in line with her party and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell; calling for any extension of unemployment benefits to 2 Million jobs seeking Americans, to be paid for and questioning the length needed for the extension.

"I'll have to see, I really think it should be paid for," she said. "There's also a limit to how long we can keep extending unemployment if the unemployment rate is falling. It's certainly important that we pay for it", noted on M-Live.

Official photo of United States Senator and Mi...Image via Wikipedia
Does Senate Minority Leader
Mitch McConnell (R-KY) hold
more power on what gets passed
in the Senate, than President
Democratic and Republican leaders had a one-hour meeting with President Obama this afternoon to discuss issues facing the lame-duck Congress, including unemployment insurance. From the CBS News report of the meeting, it appears extending the Bush Era tax cuts for as long as possible is still first, on the Republican agenda.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), after the meeting said the other issues on Senate Democrats' agenda, "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" repeal and passage of the DREAM Act, as well as START ratification - "aren't in the same category" as funding the government - it will run out of money on Friday without at least a stopgap spending bill - and dealing with the Bush-era tax cuts, according to CBS News. McConnell also had come to "reshuffle our priorities on the Senate side."

President Obama meanwhile, stated after the meeting he was "very encouraged" by what he perceived as a recognition among both Republicans and Democrats that their focus should be on helping Americans, not politics.

"We are Americans first, and we share a responsibility for the stewardship of our nation," he said. "The American people did not vote for gridlock."

The White House has signaled that it is open to compromise on the issue of Bush Era tax cuts.  According to the CBS News Report, a temporary one to three-year extension of all of the cuts (which will add to the 13.7 Trillion dollar budget deficit) appears now very likely, perhaps coupled with an extension of unemployment benefits. 

What are your thoughts on this article? Are you encouraged by the Senate introducing S.3981? Do you believe that the unemployment insurance extension should be a bargaining tool for President Obama and the Republicans, for the Bush Era Tax Cuts, which will add Trillions of dollars to the growing deficit? Feel free to comment on this story, below!
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