Congress has finally passed a bill to restore extended federal unemployment insurance to more than 2.7 million jobless workers, continue the program for millions more, and allow those unemployed for more than 26 weeks to file for the program through the end of November.
President Obama is scheduled to sign the unemployment extension later today.
The House passed the measure this afternoon, with the Senate having approved it last night by a vote of 59 to 39. Even after their two-month filibuster was finally overcome, Senate Republicans delayed a final vote for an additional 30 hours by refusing to give back any post-cloture time. The added delay caused another 60,000 long-term jobless workers to have their benefits cut off temporarily.
Now those benefits will begin to be paid out retroactive to June 1 when the Republican-led obstruction caused them to expire.
The victory on unemployment insurance comes just one day after President Obama signed a landmark Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act which was passed by the Congress despite strenuous opposition from Wall Street’s lobbyists and conservative Republicans — the very folks whose disastrous policies caused the Great Recession and our debilitating high levels of unemployment.
The agonizing two-month struggle to pass an unemployment insurance extension exposed the Republicans as deficit frauds who want to block any measures to improve the economy and support a recovery. In their calculations, the more pain working families are in, the better the Republicans’ chances are politically.
That’s why renewed efforts are needed now to press the Congress to take up the critical measures that were put aside during the unemployment extension struggle. Congress needs to extend FMAP funds to help states pay for Medicaid and avoid mass layoffs; and it needs to provide critical state aid to help keep teachers in classrooms in the coming school year.