Where We Are on Unemployment Insurance

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Jan. 15 2014 10:02 AM

Where We Are on Unemployment Insurance

455470485-sen-kelly-ayotte-talks-on-her-phone-as-she-rides-an
Kelly Ayotte may know the best way to proceed from here: by escalator, of course.

Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Speaking of other stories that affect a lot of struggling families and don't have "New Jersey" in them, the Senate has reached an impasse on unemployment insurance. By this I mean that the Democratic offers to extend UI, for the rest of the year or for three months, were blocked by, respectively, 48 and 45 votes. (Three Democrats joined the GOP to deny cloture on the plan to pay for UI by moving forward sequestration cuts to Medicare.)

Like everything else in the Senate, this has devolved into a messaging war with billions of dollars at stake. The Democratic position, basically, is that voters will get angry at Republicans and move them to action, because they're the ones providing the "no" votes. Harry Reid made this impossible to miss: "When people start talking endlessly about process, write op-eds about process and on the other side you have 1.4 million people who are desperate, desperate for some help, what argument wins?"

Advertisement

The Republican position is that any extension must be paid for, and that for the time being New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte has a payfor only an America-hater could reject: denying child tax benefits to illegal immigrants. The best "messaging" of this has come not from the RNC or FreedomWorks or something, but from a headline writer at the Washington Examiner: "What if you could restore veterans' pensions, fund jobless benefits and stop illegal immigrant fraud, all at once? Democrats would block it."

So, that's where we are. Sorry, unemployed person, but the people you elected are hardly going to stop a pissing contest in midstream.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. You can reach him at daveweigel@gmail.com, or tweet at him @daveweigel.