The filibuster is back. At least, that is, on legislation.
On January 14, Senate Republicans blocked two proposals from Harry Reid that would have extended long-term unemployment benefits.
The first was a $17 billion bill that would have extended benefits through November, with the only pay-for being a promised cut in spending—in 2024. It failed by a vote of 52 to 48.
The second was an unpaid-for $6.4 billion three-month extension that was defeated 55 to 45.
Both measures needed 60 votes in order to achieve cloture and move forward.
“It is refreshing that Senate Republicans have found the backbone to stop Harry Reid’s attempt to jam through a massive unemployment insurance extension spending increase without making the necessary cuts to pay for it,” Americans for Limited Government President Nathan Mehrens noted in a statement issued after the votes.
The logjam in the Senate was actually quite a turn of events.
After all, just on January 7, supplying the votes necessary to help Senate Democrats advance the bill in the first place were six Senate Republicans: Kelly Ayotte (N.H.), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), Susan Collins (Maine), Bob Portman (Ohio), Dean Heller (Nev.), and Dan Coats (Ind.).
This time, the only Republican who joined with Democrats was Senator Heller of Nevada, who voted to advance the three-month extension.
On January 7 Heller issued a statement in favor of the short-term extension: “Inaction by Congress has left these individuals and families facing the New Year uncertain how they will pay their utility bills or feed their families.”
What this analysis leaves out is that the last round of extensions went up to 73 weeks in some states, and at one point were even as high as 99 weeks, far longer than one is required to work in order to receive the benefits.
Last week, ALG’s Mehrens noted the absurdity: “In some instances individuals need only work a couple quarters to qualify for benefits, receiving far more than they ever paid into the system. Is that fair? That makes these long-term unemployment benefits extensions not any sort of insurance, but a debt-creating welfare program.”
Now, Congress need only do nothing and benefits will be restored to their traditional 26 weeks.
But Senate Republicans have to hold the line, and refuse to give any more handouts that only treat the symptoms of what ails our economy and do nothing to help people get back to work.
The issue is not pay-for’s. It is that Congress 11 times since 2008 has issued band-aids to cover a gaping wound.
Instead, it is time for Congress to roll back the excess of regulations via the EPA’s carbon endangerment finding, new industry takeovers via Obamacare and Dodd-Frank, and the diversion of investment resources away from the private sector to government bonds via high deficits. It should consider tax reforms that reduce the burden of regular Americans and business, and ways to reduce the burden excessive government deficit-spending puts on the economy.
There are many things the government could be doing to help grow the economy and get people back to work. Just not welfare.
Robert Romano is the senior editor of Americans for Limited Government.