Senator Olympia Snowe, according to the Washington Post, sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) Friday urging him to not give up on the unemployed and to attempt another standalone vote for the unemployment extension provision. She says she will support a standalone provision that addresses the millions of unemployed that stand to lose their unemployment benefits if the legislation is not passed. But what Olympia Snowe doesn’t mention is that it is her party leader, Mitch McConnell, who controls whether the standalone gets tp the Senate floor.
Truthfully, the Democrats do not need Olympia Snowe’s disingenuous scene-stealing (Snowe job?) letter to propose a standalone unemployment benefits package. Although there was some talk as to shelving the larger, more encompassing tax and benefits bill, the growing pressure to help the nation’s unemployed demanded at least another try at a standalone vote. Besides, the Democrats have already tried to get the unemployment benefits extension to the Senate floor twice.
That is correct. The Democrats have already attempted to bring a standalone measure to the Senate floor twice. Both times Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has objected. It never made it to the floor to vote.
Olympia Snowe knows this. She’s simply attempting to put a better face on the Republican intransigence that has produced the current stalemate.
Senator Reid’s spokesman, Jim Manley, sensing that the pressure is probably on several Republican senators, especially moderates like Snowe and her Maine colleague Susan Collins, replied in an e-mail, “We appreciate Senator Snowe’s concerns, but the fact is that she is sending the letter to the wrong person and to the wrong party. We know that the thousands of unemployed workers in Maine want an explanation as to why she joined with all Republicans several times to vote against legislation to help the unemployed . . . but Senator Snowe provides no evidence that any other Republicans support her proposal.”
Democrats can get at least 56 votes just from the Democratic side of the political aisle. They’ve done it twice in failed cloture votes on the larger umbrella bill that is the American Jobs and Tax Loopholes Closing Act of 2010.
And Senator Mitch McConnell also knows that a standalone vote taken on the unemployment extension provision would pass the Senate as well. Even Republican senators who have been voicing objections to the overall tax and benefits bill would face considerable voter ire if they cast a “no” vote on an unemployment benefits extension. McConnell knows this and is playing obstructionist politics when he objects.
But, then, Olympia Snowe was also playing politics with her letter to Harry Reid.
Reid’s spokesperson was correct. Snowe should address her appeal to the Senate Minority Leader, not the Senate Majority Leader.
There will be another standalone attempt, although it is not certain whether or not it will be brought to the Senate floor by Senator Reid before the Senate takes its July 4 recess. Even if Reid does offer the provision up for a standalone vote, it will still be up to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell to allow the provision to get to the floor. Thus far, the fact that hundreds of thousands of the unemployed have lost their benefits since the first week of June has not swayed the Republican senator from Kentucky, whose own state has an unemployment rate of 10.4% (almost 216,000), to allow a standalone vote. The number of unemployed having lost their benefits will reach 1.2 million by next week. That number will increase to 2 million by the time the senators return from recess.
Mitch McConnell and the Republicans know this as well…