WASHINGTON — The looming expiration of federal unemployment benefits raises the question of whether Democratic lawmakers bungled the debate.
Though Congress can still act retroactively, Democrats‘ goal had been to pass an extension of the benefits before Dec. 28, when they are set to expire. The administration and allies on the Hill tried to attach a provision to the budget deal passed in mid-December. But by the time they began engaging the fight, few Democrats seemed particularly attentive and Republicans were more than comfortable running out the clock.
Now, with Congress in recess, long-term unemployment insurance will come to an end for 1.3 million Americans, potentially costing 240,000 jobs, according to the White House‘s Council of Economic Advisers. Was it inevitable? Or was it a case of political mismanagement?
“Here are the basics of what you need to know on where budget talks are in Congress: Right now, a bipartisan budget conference committee is working to produce a long-term budget solution — they have until December 13th to hammer out a plan. >From there, Congress will have until January 15th to debate, tweak, and pass the budget to avoid another government shutdown. That’s also the day that the next round of devastating sequester cuts will go into effect — these cuts were designed to put pressure on Congress to find a solution. If they fail to pass a budget by that date, the new round of sequestration cuts will be much more severe than the ones we saw in 2013. Many government agencies still had funding available from previous years that they were able to dig into, and take steps to prevent furloughs and deep budgetary cuts — but now, they’re running out of options, and another round of sequester cuts would slow our fragile economic recovery. The bottom line is that there’s a lot at stake over the next two months. Congress needs to step up and pass a long-term budget that addresses sequester cuts and grows our economy from the middle out.” …Nico Probst, OFA
Having watched their party descend into chaos over the government shutdown, Republicans aren’t likely to let the fiscal negotiations upstage Obamacare’s problems again. And that could be good news for the Congressional leaders who are struggling to put together a budget agreement by mid-December.
Republicans have seen a huge reversal in political fortune since the government reopened and Obamacare’s problems have taken center stage. “It would argue against not having another shutdown: have Democrats keep shooting themselves in the foot and the president keep giving disastrous press conferences,” says Tevi Troy, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute and a former Bush health official.
“We have always done so when unemployment is this high and would make little sense to fail to do so now when we are still facing the burdens of the worst downturn since the Great Recession,” Sperling said. “It is high bang for the buck for the economy, reduces poverty and helps workers who lost jobs due to no fault of their own get back on their feet.”
The economy is growing much more quickly than expected. Inflation is basically nonexistent. The federal budget deficit has been slashed dramatically. The stock market is reaching all-time highs. One of our long-running wars is over, and the other is winding down. The status of the United States as the world’s preeminent economic and military power is unchallenged.
The sour public attitude toward elected officials in general — and the Republican Party in particular — is understandable. Indeed, the wonder is that pollsters can findanyone beyond paid staffers who will express approval of Congress. And as for the White House, the rollout of the Affordable Care Act does not scream competence and efficiency.
The twin dramas of the government shutdown and botched rollout of Obamacare have snapped a sleepy 2014 election season out of its slumber, sharpening the battle lines for each party and setting the stage for a consequential midterm that few expected even two months ago.
The spring and summer months were filled with charges and countercharges about the Internal Revenue Service, wiretapping, Syria and immigration. Politicians recycled old attack lines and operatives confidently predicted control of Congress would remain status quo after next November.
No more. The parties’ competing political narratives — the dangers of a tea party-controlled party versus the perils of President Barack Obama’s far-reaching health care law — have been thrown into sharp relief the past several weeks. Now each party has something tangible to point to — that touch voters’ lives in concrete ways — to argue that the other should be booted from office.
With world watching, Congress against wall for last-minute fiscal solution
The nation is just hours away from a crucial deadline to avert default on its debts and Washington remains muddled in a risky legislative process that has the American people and the rest of the world holding its collective breath.
After a furious day of Republican proposals ended with a thud and no House votes to advance a plan, lawmakers have even less time to approve a measure to increase the nation’s borrowing power and end a dragging government shutdown.
Senate leaders say they are closing in on a deal that could pass the upper chamber with bipartisan support but it’s unclear how fast they can get it to the president’s desk.
U.S. news reports are largely blaming the government shutdown on the inability of both political parties to come to terms. It is supposedly the result of a “bitterly divided” Congress that “failed to reach agreement” (Washington Post) or “a bitter budget standoff” left unresolved by “rapid-fire back and forth legislative maneuvers” (New York Times). This sort of false equivalence is not just a failure of journalism. It is also a failure of democracy.
When the political leadership of this country is incapable of even keeping the government open, a political course correction is in order. But how can democracy self-correct if the public does not understand where the problem lies? And where will the pressure for change come from if journalists do not hold the responsible parties accountable?
The truth of what happened Monday night, as almost all political reporters know full well, is that “Republicans staged a series of last-ditch efforts to use a once-routine budget procedure to force Democrats to abandon their efforts to extend U.S. health insurance.” (Thank you, Guardian.)
And holding the entire government hostage while demanding the de facto repeal of a president’s signature legislation and not even bothering to negotiate is by any reasonable standard an extreme political act. It is an attempt to make an end run around the normal legislative process. There is no historical precedent for it. The last shutdowns, in 1995 and 1996, were not the product of unilateral demands to scrap existing law; they took place during a period of give-and-take budget negotiations. FULL ARTICLE