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Posted by on Jul 19, 2010 in Politics | 0 comments

Senate Poised to Pass Unemployment Benefits Extension As Obama Throws Down Gauntlet

What a difference a day — and a replacement Senator for West Virginia’s late Democratic Senator Robert Byrd — makes: it was a Monday when the media narrative seemingly changed on extending unemployment insurance in two key ways amid the biggest change being that now news reports suddenly predicting that the Senate will pass the measure tomorrow, after it being repeatedly sandbagged by Republicans.

The two key developments:

1. The Senate’s dynamics changed for the better for the Democrats — and many analysts believe they better enjoy it while they can — when West Virginia Governor Joe Manchin swore in Carter Goodwin, who served as Governor Manchin’s from general counsel for four years from ’05-’09. Now — unless there is some sudden defection from the few Republicans who agreed to go along with the extension — its passage is highly likely. But if you think you’ve seen stalemate now, just wait until after the November elections when the Democrats lose some seats — or even, some experts suggest, lose control of the Senate. Will the 60 votes rule “Californize” the Senate?

2. President Barack Obama finally delivered the kind of remarks his partisans (particularly liberal talk show hosts) had wanted him to deliver: one where he called on GOPers to stop blocking the unemployment extension bill and charging the Republicans with a)playing politics with suffering families, b)showing a disdainful attitude towards those who don’t have and can’t find jobs. The video:

All of this raises two questions:

ONE: Why are these benefits so important now? The Christian Science Monitor explains why:

So why do today’s unemployed need nearly two years of unemployment benefits?

Because “this recession is so different than anything we’ve seen previously,” says George Wentworth, policy analyst at the National Employment Law Project. “We’ve never had long-term unemployment in anything approaching the current levels.”

In June the long-term unemployed – those out of work for more than six months – reached 45.5 percent of the country’s unemployed workers. In 1983, those without work for that long peaked at 26 percent.

“Usually when you’re this far into a recession, or a ‘recovery,’ it should be easier for people to find jobs,” says Mr. Wentworth. “But that’s just not the case.”

But some studies (PDF) show that unemployment lengthens when unemployment benefits are extended.

In June, there were about five job seekers for each job opening, according to the Department of Labor.

That means that the vast majority of those whose benefits are expiring will have to look for other forms of aid to make ends meet, says Wentworth, either through community resources or state programs, like food stamps and cash assistance through Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or TANF.

TWO: Polls have shown the Democrats are heading towards a wipe out in November so great that you’ll be able to hear 1960s surfing songs blaring as you come out of the poll booth. But is the Republican strategy of essentially trying to block key White House and Democratic goals working, or is it peppered with dangers for the GOP?

A new Gallup poll will give some hope to Democrats — and might give some pause to Republicans:

In the same week the U.S. Senate passed a major financial reform bill touted as reining in Wall Street, Democrats pulled ahead of Republicans, 49% to 43%, in voters’ generic ballot preferences for the 2010 congressional elections.

The Democrats’ six-point advantage in Gallup Daily interviewing from July 12-18 represents the first statistically significant lead for that party’s candidates since Gallup began weekly tracking of this measure in March.

Whether the Democrats’ edge is sustainable remains to be seen. Republicans held a four-point or better lead over Democrats in three Gallup weekly averages thus far this year, but in each case, the gap narrowed or collapsed to a tie the following week.

Gallup notes two findings that might give GOPers pause:

  • Republicans had been making great gains among independent voters but now are seeing some erosion.
  • Some Republican enthusiasm has waned. A key question in coming weeks will be whether tensions between the traditional conservatives and talk show radio political culture conservatives within the tea party movement create some problems for Republicans come November.If you put all of this together it sounds as if the Democrats may have hit their rock bottom and are inching up a bit. And as the Democrats sunk, the Republicans made a grab for it — but, just as in the case of Democrats early in Obama’s term, may have been guilty overreaching.