The House of Representatives passed the hotly contested emergency unemployment benefits extension bill Thursday, accepting the latest version of the bill that was basically a standalone rendition of a massive omnibus bill that entered the Senate at the end of May. The bill now goes to the desk of President Obama to sign into law. One might think that the vote, which the New York Times reported as seeing 31 Republicans cross the aisle in the House to vote with 241 Democrats to send the measure through, would be the end of it. One would be wrong.
“Today we put this sad chapter behind us,” said Representative Sander Levin (D-MI), chairman of the Ways and Means Committee. But putting chapters behind us does not always see the end of the story. In fact, the “sad chapter” of the unemployment benefits extension debate will be reread over and over again in the coming months as part of the talking points in the platforms of both Parties as they campaign toward the November elections.
Republicans will accuse Democrats of wasteful spending tendencies, steering the country in the wrong direction, crushing the nation’s grandchildren with massive deficit spending. Democrats will accuse Republicans of a lack of vision, not willing to tax the rich but perfectly willing to deny the poor (and unemployed), and blatant hypocrisy (pressing the idea that it was 12 years of deregulation and profligate spending under a Republican-led Congress, plus the disastrous economic policies — continuous tax breaks — of the Bush administration, that led to the current economic situation).
And there will barely be a respite — if there is one at all. Electioneering for the November elections has already begun. There is little doubt that bills for the next round of unemployment extensions will be introduced before the elections, putting the contrast of stances of the Parties squarely before the voting (and nonvoting) public.
Additionally, to make the contrast even starker, there are those in the Republican camp who have made it known that they are for the severe curtailment or discontinuation of emergency unemployment benefits extensions altogether. Although many conservative-oriented Democrats lean toward offsetting additional unemployment benefits extensions, they are not against discontinuing extensions. Democrats are also likely to disagree with continuing tax breaks and/or not offsetting continued extensions via increased taxes, especially in the corporate sector, which most Republican-sponsored legislation does not include.
A “sad chapter” behind us? More like an interim piece in a neverending story…