The headlines tell the story:
— “Hopes Dim For Long-Term Extension To Jobless Benefits.” (All Things Considered)
— “Senate Blocks Jobless Aid.” (Politico)
— “Extending unemployment benefits stumbles in Senate.” (CNN)
— “Jobless Aid Extension Stalls In Senate.” (The Hill)
— “Unemployment benefits won’t be extended until at least late January as Senate deadlocks.” (The Washington Post)
Here’s how The Associated Press explains what’s happening:
“Compromise talks on a new program of long-term jobless benefits ran aground in the Senate on Tuesday, leaving the fate of the measure in extreme doubt while Republicans and Democrats vied for political advantage in the wreckage. … At issue was a struggle over the possible resurrection of a program that expired on Dec. 28, immediately cutting off support for more than 1.3 million unemployed workers who have exhausted state-paid benefits that generally run for 26 weeks.”
On All Things Considered, NPR’s Ailsa Chang noted that six of the Senate’s 45 Republicans had previously voted to consider legislation to extend the benefits.
But “most of that group of six Republicans made it very clear that they would turn around and work to defeat the bill if lawmakers didn’t find a way to pay for the extension,” she reported.
“So, the two questions over the last week have been how should we pay for it and how long should the extension last? Now, Democrats say if they have to find a way to pay for these benefits, they want a longer-term bill, more than a three-month extension. So they came up with an 11-month plan that would be paid for largely by extending cuts to Medicare providers a decade from now.”
Republicans objected because “they say that it’s not a real cut when you spend money now, and the corresponding cut doesn’t come until 10 years from now. And many Republicans also wanted to see a shorter-term extension. So the six of them who voted earlier to let the bill proceed, they tried to cobble together their own proposal to replace the Democratic one. But Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid rejected that [Tuesday], largely because the Republican plan only lasts for three months and the way they found the cuts undid some of last December’s budget agreement.
“There was also a dispute over how many Republican amendments would get votes on the floor. So everything kind of blew up [Tuesday] afternoon.”
Looking ahead, Ailsa added that “the Senate needs to move to vote on spending bills this week, and then this chamber goes on recess next week. And then that brings us to late January before this chamber can even return to this issue.”
Later today, President Obama will be in Raleigh, N.C., where he’s expected to again make the case that Congress should extend the benefits.