The Boys Are Back In Town-- Republicans Fail To Filibuster Unemployment Benefits
Yesterday most senators got back from frolicking on the beaches of Cancun, South Padre Island, Cabo and Jamaica. Fit, fat and tanned, 94 senators got down to the business of how to deal with expired unemployment insurance for around a quarter million American workers-- plus another 200,000 who would lose their benefits this week if the GOP isn't stopped. Taking up the House's already passed H.R. 4851, Tom Coburn immediately mounted a filibuster to block discussion of the bill. Sick and tired of Coburn's and Bunning's zombie-like obstructionism, Reid asked for a cloture vote. All 56 present Democrats were joined by Scott Brown (R-MA), George Voinovich (R-OH), Susan Collins (R-ME) and Olympia Snowe (R-ME) to beat back the filibuster 60-34. Among those voting against extending unemployment benefits were electorally vulnerable Republicans like Richard Burr (R-NC), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), John McCain (R-AZ), Jim DeMint (R-SC) and David "Diapers" Vitter (R-LA).
We reached Judge Vic Rawl, the populist Democrat running for the South Carolina Senate seat currently held by DeMint. Rawl, a fierce advocate for working families, was disappointed in DeMint's vote yesterday, calling it "typically cruel, but sadly, not unusual. DeMint is not simply anti-labor, he is anti-worker. His grandstanding is causing unnecessary suffering for thousands of South Carolinians earnestly looking for work and trying to feed their families while they do... Workers will permanently lose weeks of benefits so that DeMint can be a show-pony on Fox and brag about how he’s being 'responsible.' What he is responsible for are more hard times for South Carolinians who need our helping hand the most right now. More and more, it seems like Jim DeMint’s plan to lower taxes is to first eliminate jobs, then eliminate benefits for the jobless. Shameful."
The $9 billion cost of the aid would be added to the deficit, which Democrats said was justified because of the grim national employment picture.
“Let us help the families who are struggling in this difficult economic time,” said Senator Max Baucus, Democrat of Montana and chairman of the Finance Committee, who said the infusion of federal aid would help the overall economy recover.
Most Republicans insisted that, Congress should find a way to pay for the legislation rather than add to the escalating federal debt.
“We refuse to do the same things that families across this country do every day and that’s make a choice about priorities,” said Senator Tom Coburn, Republican of Oklahoma and a main advocate of finding a way to cover the costs of the benefits through cuts in other programs.
Coburn's sudden concern with fiscal responsibility coincided with the election of President Obama. Like all of his conservative colleagues, he favored years and years of unrestrained spending and tax cuts for the wealthy under Bush. Sickened by the hypocrisy of these obstructionists, Scott Brown, in voting with the Democrats, said "I have pledged to do my best to change the tone in Washington, and my vote to continue the debate rather than obstruct it serves as a step in that direction," a clear slap at Bunning, Coburn and, of course, McConnell.
Backers of the unemployment relief say the severity of the economic collapse has caused millions of Americans to go without work for six months or more, making the federal help essential for those struggling to hold on to their homes and feed their families while looking for work.
“We know what they’ve been through,” Senator Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, the No. 2 Democrat. “They’ve lost their life savings and have nowhere to turn.”
He and other Democrats noted that many Senate Republicans last year supported the bank bailout without the costs being covered and that the response to national disasters is typically provided on an emergency basis, with the funds added directly to the deficit.
Unlike Republicans who spend all their time with their wealthy backers in countryclubs, Olympia Snowe visited with unemployed workers and the their families in Maine during the Spring Break. "There are people who are in desperate need and depend on these unemployment benefits," she said during the debate. "I visited a number of career centers in Maine and I talked firsthand with people who had been long-term unemployed or recently unemployed, and you know, they need their benefits and they don't need this added anxiety about whether they're going to get them. We need to streamline programs, and if there's ways to pay for it that would be great. But let's not add to their burdens." Her colleagues on that side of the aisle say they are angry that people think of them as cold-hearted, selfish shills of wealthy interests who led the country over the financial cliff with their policies of unrestrained greed and self-interest.
North Carolina Secretary of State Elaine Marshall has the double task of ending the shameful career of reactionary Wall Street puppet Richard Burr while preventing a conservative Democratic version of the same species, Cal Cunningham, from replacing him. Last night Elaine told us that Burr's vote was wrong for North Carolina families. Her perceptive analysis of what's gone wrong over the long term appears to be beyond the comprehension of not just Burr and the pack of anti-family Republicans around him, but something that the DSCC corporate shill using lobbyist money to try to defeat her in the May primary can't understand either. "After supporting the policies that wrecked our economy and left millions unemployed, Richard Burr is turning his back on those who are victims of his irresponsible record. He does not seem to realize that actions have consequences and his actions have hurt many American families."