“Acquiescent No More???” a blog posted on this site, February 15, 2014, recounted how Republican Congressional leaders had stopped catering to the whims of their Tea Party cohorts, at least where holding the nation’s debt ceiling hostage was concerned. Well, that opposition to those Tea Party representatives certainly didn’t last long. Mitch McConnell in the Senate, and John Boehner in the House, are now doing whatever they can to prevent the passage of a bill that would extend unemployment benefits. That piece of legislation, which has bipartisan support in both houses, actually passed in the Senate if only barely. The problem is a familiar one; i.e. Speaker Boehner won’t bring it to the floor for a vote.

The Senate drafters of the extension made sure that it was paid for, not with borrowed money, but by means of some adjustments in the existing budget. That move eliminated one predictable conservative complaint. The next one to surface had to do with claims that the implementation of the pay-out of the benefits retroactively would be problematic. Boehner seized upon that argument and used it to justify letting the Senate bill die. The idea of being proactive by finding and employing ways to make implementation possible was never considered. As a result, millions of unemployed Americans will continue to go without an extension of the benefits that would help them keep mind and body together (1). It’s worth remembering that these potential recipients are not deadbeats suffering from “terminal laziness and sloth”. In order to qualify for benefits they must, by law, have a history of both working and actively seeking employment.

Taking all of the foregoing into account, how are we to understand Boehner’s behavior? The answer is all-too-familiar:  He cannot muster 218 House Republicans to pass the bill because of strenuous Tea Party opposition. So, by avoiding a vote or even any constructive work on the Senate’s proposal , the Speaker spares his colleagues from having to go on the record as obstructionists. This sort of election year game-playing has been allowed to take place in spite of the fact that polls show that respondents overwhelmingly favor the extension of benefits. Claims by the obstructionist Republicans that they are “listening to the American people” is a gross distortion of reality. The truth is that they are listening only to the Tea Party constituents in their gerrymandered districts who vehemently oppose anything that the president and Democrats are for.

Democrats running for seats in Congress need to capitalize on this history and make their Republican opponents pay!!!

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1. No one should believe conservatives’ undocumented assertion that unemployment benefits promote idleness and kill initiative. The few hundred dollars per month that are provided do no better than allow for bare subsistence. Your blogger can attest to that from experience:  For a few months back in 1958, while awaiting induction into the Army, he was unemployed and drew benefits. It was no way to live.

 

 

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