Unemployed Lose Benefits As Congress' Partisans Clash

If you're one of the nearly two million people whose extended unemployment insurance benefits have just ended or soon will because the Senate couldn't agree on a further extension, a frightening period has only gotten scarier.

Read stories like Chrissanda Walker's recently told in the Washington Post and you can sense the fear and dread; they're almost palpable.

Walker, who until 18 months ago earned $100,000 a year as a nursing home executive until she was laid off, has earned small sums by selling home cooked meals.

Her benefits are to run out this week. WaPo Reporter Will Haygood wrote:

She recently received an extension on her unemployment benefits. But they are set to run out again on Dec. 4. "What about Christmas? What are people all over the country to do?" she wonders.

In a piece on Morning Edition, NPR's David Welna outlined the policy debate between Senate Democrats, who say during past period of high unemployment, benefit extensions have routinely been passed despite deficits.

Republicans, on the other hand, are pointing to the large federal deficits, saying they don't oppose extending the benefits so long as their estimated $56.4 billion cost is offset by spending cuts elsewhere in the federal budget.

An excerpt from the Web version of David's report:

Late Tuesday, Rhode Island Democratic Sen. Jack Reed defended his party's proposal to extend unemployment benefits for a year without cutting other items in the budget.

"We've always done it on an emergency basis, because it truly is an emergency," Reed said. "We haven't sought to offset it, because we've always determined that it was necessary to get the money to the people who could use it, who needed it desperately, and we should do that again."

Reed then proposed that the Senate take up the extension. Massachusetts Republican Sen. Scott Brown objected, even as he expressed sympathy to onlookers in the Senate gallery for those losing their benefits.

"Make no mistake, I agree that they need help, but I look at it as: Are we going to do it from the bank account, or are we going to put it on the credit card?" he said.

Democrats in turn rejected Brown's proposal to cut other government funding to pay for more jobless benefits. Both sides say the solution may be to attach those benefits to a deal extending the Bush-era tax cuts.



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