House Nixes Jobless Benefits Extension

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The House failed to pass a three-month extension of federal unemployment-insurance benefits, leaving up to 4 million Americans at risk of losing their benefits when they expire at the end of the month. Because the bill was fast-tracked to the floor, it required a 2/3 majority to pass. With 258 members in favor and 154 opposed, the vote fell short of the 275 required for passage. Twenty-one Republicans supported the bill, along with all but 11 Democrats. “Terminating this emergency unemployment assistance will not only devastate families, but it also will hurt the entire economy by depressing consumer confidence and demand,” Rep. Sander Levin, the Michigan Democrat who co-sponsored the measure, said in a statement. Politico explains:

Congress has moved to extend the program four times this year — despite growing Republican opposition and procedural tactics.
House Democrats placed the measure on the suspension calendar at the last-minute as they sought to move as much legislation as possible through the chamber before it turns over to Republican control in early January. Had they placed the bill on the regular calendar, it likely would have cleared easily.

Opponents think the $12.5 billion required to extend the benefits through the end of February is too high a price to pay when the sum isn’t offset by cuts elsewhere. (By contrast, preserving the Bush-era tax cuts for the top 2% of earners would cost $700 billion over the next 10 years.) According to the Congressional Budget Office, in 2009 unemployment insurance prevented the poverty rate — assessed as 14% last year — from rising an additional point.