Democrats knew they were going to have a difficult time getting the 2010 Unemployment Benefits Extension Bill through the Senate going into last week — but they didn’t know it would be this difficult. The Republicans, led by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), didn’t want the bill passed without it being paid for, so they pushed across the idea of paying for the unemployment extension with unused stimulus money. The maneuver was summarily rejected by the Democrats. Still, to mollify the Republicans and to get the bill passed in order for the extension to pick up the 300,000 people that lost their unemployment benefits as of June, the Democrats cut, sliced, and dropped provisions in order to cut the projected amount of damage to the budget by nearly $25 billion. But when it came time for the cloture vote (the legislative vote that ends debate and sends the bill to the Senate floor for a vote) on Thursday, the Mitch McConnell- led Republicans formed the same phalanx they’ve formed on most major pieces of legislation put before them since President Obama was inaugurated and voted to the last senator for continuing debate, thereby successfully filibustering the 2010 Unemployment Extension Bill.
Disappointed but undeterred, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) decided to push through major portions of the bill Friday via standalone, which is the legislative process of taking provisions and calling for a unanimous vote from the Senate to get it passed. Although provisions like the extension for continuing the suspension of Medicare reimbursement cuts were accepted and summarily passed by unanimous vote, Mitch McConnell objected to the same treatment of the provision calling for an unemployment benefits extension, a measure that called for benefits to continue for those whose unemployment would normally run out. The extension was to cover the unemployed until November.
Mitch McConnell then offered the Republican-proposed solution to the unemployment benefits stalemate — again suggesting paying for the extension with unused stimulus money. Reid objected, again.
Aren’t the Democrats supposed to be the party stubborn to a fault? Don’t they have the donkey logo to prove it? But as the Republican Party has entrenched itself as the Anti-Obama Party, it seems that they have also acquired the mannerisms of a stubborn ass. Again and again, the American public has watched the same scene play out in Washington: If it is something the Democrats — especially legislation with Obama’s imprimatur — want badly, the Republicans in the Senate form a solid obstructing wall. They’ve earned the nickname “Party of No.”
But ideology aside, not being able to compromise on a measure that means so much to so many (9.7 million Americans are receiving unemployment benefits, with 1.2 million directly affected in the months of June and July if legislation does not pass to extend their unemployment benefits — with more to come as each successive week sees more of the unemployed lose their benefits), even if that money is just 36% of their regular weekly pay, makes the Republicans in the Senate a stable of asses. One might point to Harry Reid’s refusal to pull monies from the stimulus as stubborn behavior, which would be a true statement in and of itself, but Democrats have already removed provisions totaling billions of dollars to accommodate many Republican requests.
In short, the donkeys, who have been only slightly stubborn, have met up against a bunch of stonewalling asses, who have honed their stubbornness to a regimen.
Bad enough that there are 15 million officially — by Bureau of Labor estimates — unemployed in the U. S. (there are more, even excluding the homeless), with 9.7 million receiving unemployment benefits, but to have lawmakers who helped cause the economic catastrophe — the Republicans, most of whom have been in office for two or three decades and controlled Congress for twelve of the last 15 years — through indifference, toadying to special interests, and passing deregulatory legislation — completely deny their own constituents and others throughout the United States an extension on monies those hard-working people helped create (and will help create again) just to prove some umbrella-in-a-hurricane act of fiscal responsibility (decrease the deficit) staggers a person of conscience.
Adding insult to that injury, another Republican, kowtowing to reciprocity demanded of his very close ties with the pharmaceutical and health care industries, has introduced an amendment to what could be the final version of the 2010 Unemployment Benefits Extension Bill: a mandatory drug and alcohol test that must be passed in order to receive one’s unemployment benefits. Senator Orrin Hatch introduced the amendment last week. The 2010 Unemployment Extension Bill, according to some reports, may not be passed until just before the July 4 weekend. But what will it look like with people like Orrin Hatch and Mitch McConnell shaping it?
Conscienceless asses indeed…