Senator Baucus Introduces Full-Year Reauthorization of Federal Unemployment Insurance

Legislation to reauthorize and fully fund the federal unemployment benefit programs through 2011 has been introduced in the Senate by Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT), on the eve of the November 30 programs' expiration.

From the Huffington Post:

Senate Democrats introduced a bill Monday evening that would reauthorize extended unemployment aid for a full year, setting up a symbolic showdown on jobless benefits one day before they are set to expire.

"Unemployment benefits are the only lifeline many workers in Montana and across the nation have left in this tough economy," said Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.), who introduced the bill. "These benefits help millions of Americans put food on the table and roofs over their heads -- pumping money into our economy and helping to create jobs. Continuing the program for a year will provide the certainty our economy and these Americans looking for work need."

The cost of the legislation is not "offset" with spending cuts, meaning it likely faces insurmountable opposition from Republicans and conservative Democrats opposed to deficit spending. Republicans may offer a reauthorization that is "paid for" with spending cuts, though Democrats are unlikely to support such a measure, having dug in on the historical record of deficit spending to cover such emergency measures.

The cost of federally-funded extended benefits during past recessions has never been fully offset with spending cuts. Congress did not use deficit spending to accommodate extended benefits in 1991, but the cost was offset with tax hikes instead.

Without a reauthorization, the Labor Department estimates that 2 million Americans will lose their benefits over the course of December, with 800,000 facing a cutoff this week alone.

 

"Democrats are eager to fight to extend unemployment insurance in any way that they can," said one Democratic Senate aide.

A group of 29 senators sent a letter to Reid urging a quick full-year reauthorization.

"For the past six decades, Congress has provided federally funded unemployment insurance benefits during every recession," the letter said. "Further, federal unemployment insurance benefits have always been provided until the economy was on a stable path of growth. In fact, the highest unemployment rate at which federally funded unemployment benefits were not extended was 7.2 percent."

A statement released through the Senate Finance Committee noted:

"Without this reauthorization, almost 800,000 out-of-work Americans will lose these critical benefits by the end of next week and two million Americans will by the end of the year."

 

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