Newspaper article Roll Call

Unemployment Extension Vital for Long-Term Jobless

Newspaper article Roll Call

Unemployment Extension Vital for Long-Term Jobless

Article excerpt

Last December, House and Senate Republicans uniformly said they would not consider an unemployment insurance extension unless there was a bipartisan compromise that was fully paid for, contained some unspecified reforms to the program and created jobs. In early April, after three months of negotiations and numerous false starts, they got just that: The Senate finally approved a bipartisan bill that met every one of those demands, while paying benefits through the end of May.

At that point, more than 2 million long-term unemployed workers and their families had reason to hope: An end to the stalemate that had wreaked havoc on their lives for the past three months was on the horizon. Yet nearly two months later, Speaker John A. Boehner and the House Republican leadership still refuse to put the bill on the House floor, because they know full well that there are more than enough votes to pass it.

Time has now run out, though, on the Senate-passed bill. The May 31 expiration of the five-month compromise extension has now passed, and instead of having allowed a vote, members of the House headed home on yet another recess, leaving nearly 3 million long-term unemployed job-seekers, and tens of thousands more who join the ranks each week, without a lifeline to sustain their families while they look for work.

It's become far too easy for people to shrug off this inactivity as congressional gridlock, but we should resist the urge to be so glib with the lives of those struggling just to get by. This is not some indeterminate "gridlock," but rather a callous and calculated decision by House Republican leaders, who have long wanted federal unemployment insurance to disappear. They have put up one disingenuous argument after another to eliminate this modest yet vital aid to the long-term unemployed. In doing so, they have turned the policymaker's adage "do no harm" into "do nothing" - with tragic consequences for millions of America's long-term unemployed workers.

It is not too late to act to help the 3.5 million people who are among the long-term unemployed, not to mention those discouraged workers who, at least for the time being, have given up any hope of finding a job. …

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