Republicans Kill Unemployment Benefit Extension

On Tuesday, Senate Republicans filibustered two separate attempts to extend unemployment benefits, thus assuring that the more than one million workers who have lost their UI insurance last month will receive no more assistance from the federal government. Democrats introduced two different bills to extend the benefits, and despite the fact that extending unemployment insurance used to be noncontroversial and nonpartisan, Republicans swiftly killed both attempts.

Senate Minority Mitch McConnell, who’s probably the most disingenuous person in Congress, chalked the filibuster up to Harry Reid’s decision to place limits on the amendment process. The Majority Leader allowed Republicans to add a maximum of five amendments to the bill, and furthermore ruled that any amendment would require a 60-vote majority to pass.

“I hope you all are beginning to get the picture here, of who’s responsible for dysfunction in the Senate,” McConnell said, presumably with a straight face. “This is utterly absurd.”

A couple of things. First, the reason Reid limited the number of amendments was because McConnell made clear that he planned to jam up the process with irrelevant amendments that had nothing to do with unemployment insurance. One such amendment, for example, would have delayed the implementation of Obamacare’s individual mandate for a year. In addition to being completely non-germane, offering an amendment like this would seem to show that Republicans, rather than actually caring about extending UI, are simply okay with extending it, so long as they can somehow damage the president in the process.

As for Reid imposing a 60-vote majority on amendments, there is precisely one reason we’re even talking about a 60-vote majority, and that reason is Mitch McConnell himself. From the moment Barack Obama took office, McConnell has, via the filibuster, required a 60-vote majority for every major piece of legislation Democrats have tried to pass, and for many of Obama’s executive branch nominees as well. That’s why the Affordable Care Act took so long to pass. It’s also why universal background checks, the DREAM Act, and the Paycheck Fairness Act didn’t pass. McConnell acting outraged at a 60-vote majority in the Senate is like Joe Francis bemoaning the objectification of women in the media. It is the Platonic form of hypocrisy.

Image credit: Mother Jones

This will likely be reported as yet another result of generic Senate dysfunction, and some outlets are indeed presenting it as an “impasse” stemming from Congress’s general tendency to be terrible. But make no mistake: The reason unemployment insurance didn’t get extended is because Republicans — McConnell in particular — killed it. To suggest otherwise isn’t just misleading. It’s inaccurate and dishonest.