Blaming Jobless Workers

”Unemployed people are just lazy and don’t deserve benefits” seems to be a bona fide Republican talking point by now. Yesterday, former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay:

“You know,” DeLay said, “there is an argument to be made that these extensions of these unemployment benefits keeps people from going and finding jobs.” When CNN’s Candy Crowley described his argument as “a hard sell” to the public, DeLay replied, “It’s the truth.”

Crowley followed up, asking, “People are unemployed because they want to be?” DeLay again said, “Well, it is the truth.”

DeLay joined current House members Dean Heller and Steve King and current senator Jon Kyl in making this basic argument.

Kudos to Candy Crowley for following up with “people are unemployed because they want to be?” But there’s another follow-up I’d like to have DeLay’s answer to: “What do you make of the fact that there are six job-seekers for every job out there?” Let’s hear him, or Heller or King or Kyl, explain what the five people who there aren’t enough jobs for should do. Let’s hear them explain how those people are just being lazy.

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Shameless Obstruction

If you were up late watching the Senate on C-SPAN last night (yes, I was) you would have witnessed an astonishing case of shameless obstruction by Republican Senator Jim Bunning of Kentucky.

In an effort to enact emergency legislation to extend the expanded federal unemployment insurance and COBRA health subsidies beyond February 28, Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) brought a series of unanimous consent requests to act on the bill. Every request was met with an objection by Bunning, a stunt he’d begun on Wednesday.

Because of Bunning’s obstruction it is likely that current jobless aid program extensions will expire this Sunday. More than one million long-term jobless face the expiration of these benefits unless Congress can quickly pass an emergency, retroactive extension either this weekend or early next week.

Following each objection by Bunning last night, Senate Democrats led by Durbin responded with passionate pleas on behalf of America’s unemployed millions, and denunciations of Bunning’s cold hypocrisy. Senators Sanders (D-VT), McCaskill (D-MO), Merkley (D-OR), Begich (D-AK), Whitehouse (D-RI) and Reed (D-RI) joined Durbin in delivering some of the most emotionally charged defenses of hard-working Americans heard on the Senate floor in years.

Earlier in the day, an emergency one-month jobless aid extension passed the House by a voice vote.

Then came the series of obstructing objections by Bunning, reportedly peppered with a choice, overheard expletive.

In a colloquy with Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Sen. Jeff Merkley, a freshman Democrat from Oregon, was pleading for Bunning to drop his objection, when the Kentucky Republican got fed up.

“Tough s—t,” Bunning said as he was seated in the back row, overheard by the floor staff and others in attendance.

During the hours of back-and-forth objections from Bunning and responses from Democrats, Bunning complained that he was missing the Kentucky-South Carolina basketball game.

From The New York Times story: Bunning Blocks Jobless Aid in Senate:

12:06 a.m. | Updated The Senate clash over the unemployment benefits ended just before midnight Thursday with Senator Jim Bunning, Republican of Kentucky, refusing to lift his objection, meaning the jobless aid – for however short a time – will run out Sunday night unless a deal is reached Friday.

As the fight drew to a close, Mr. Bunning complained he had been ambushed by the Democrats and was forced to miss the Kentucky-South Carolina basketball game.

Over at Congress Matters today David Waldman noted this about Bunning:

… he’s blocking unemployment benefits for those hard hit by the recession, when he himself, as a Hall of Fame pitcher, can generate cash for himself any time he needs it (and often does) just by signing his name to a baseball. Maybe not everyone in America can turn a pen into an ATM, Jimbo.

Still lurking is Senator Jon Kyl (R-AZ) who threatens to block future jobless aid extensions, as well as additional jobs legislation, unless he can advance a plan to cut taxes for heirs of multi-millionaires.

It is likely that Senate Democrats will still need a procedural vote on cloture before getting to vote on the one-month emergency jobless benefits extension, something that might not come until next Tuesday — unless the Senate remains in session this weekend.

We’ll continue to keep you posted.

Meanwhile, if you would like to share your thoughts with them by phone:
Sen. Jim Bunning 202-224-4343
Sen. Jon Kyl (202) 224-4521

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Jobless Benefits Extension: Bunning Has Company

Earlier today we reported that Jim Bunning is blocking the much-needed unemployment insurance extension because of a dispute over how it would be funded.

That’s his reason for cutting off (at least temporarily) a lifeline to more than a million people.

Arizona Senator Jon Kyl has a different reason: He’ll be holding America’s job-seekers hostage to the interests of America’s multi-millionaires, blocking the extension of unemployment benefits until he gets an estate tax bill he likes; namely, one that benefits the very wealthy.

This is a fairly shocking admission of priorities. 1.1 million workers are scheduled to have their unemployment benefits expire in the next month, with 2.7 million on track to lose them by April, while unemployment is still at 9.7 percent and there are six unemployed workers for every job opening. 6.3 million Americans have been unemployed for six months or longer, which is the most since the government began keeping track in 1948 and “more than double the toll in the next-worst period, in the early 1980s.” Yet Kyl is willing to hold unemployment benefits hostage in order to fashion a tax cut for heirs of the very wealthiest estates.

Due to a Bush-era budgeting gimmick, the estate tax is currently expired, but it is set to come back in 2011 at the Clinton-era level, which Kyl has an intense interest in preventing. His proposal to slash the estate tax rate and increase its exemption would cost $250 billion over ten years, with 99 percent of the benefit going to the heirs of multi-millionaires. Under 2009 law, only 0.2 percent of estates are subject to the estate tax at all.

This is just unbelievably despicable. Kyl is willing to cut off the meager benefits keeping struggling families afloat in order to benefit the wealthiest 0.2% of people, while costing the government money. In Kyl’s home state of Arizona, 28,832 people will lose their benefits in March, a number that will rise to 120,166 by June.

Give Sen. Kyl a call, why don’t you, and ask why he’s holding struggling job-seekers hostage to the interests of people who already have so much money they will never need to work. Kyl’s office phone number is (202) 224-4521. Call now.

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Male Senatorial Health Care Logic: “I don’t need maternity care”

Via ThinkProgress:

[Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ)]: I don’t need maternity care, and so requiring that to be in my insurance policy is something that I don’t need and will make the policy more expensive.

[Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI)]: If I could just interject once with my colleague — I think your mom probably did. (LAUGHTER)

KYL: Over 60 years ago my mom did. (LAUGHTER) You notice I wasn’t too specific with regard to that.

Sen. Kyl is right. He has not and never will require maternity care. What’s not right is that he was using that logic to attempt to legislate that the federal government could not tell insurance companies that they had to cover maternity care, or any other specific condition. In other words, Kyl wants health care reform to leave insurance companies free to say “sure, you can buy this affordable coverage. Of course, it doesn’t include maternity, cancer, heart attack, stroke, or being hit by a bus.”

That is exactly the way to legislate. Senators should just pass bills that will offer protection against things they personally might someday face, and say “screw everyone else. If they want the government to do anything for them, they should’ve been born more like me.”

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