The Senate gets back to work next week after its spring break and the opening fight will almost certainly be over unemployment insurance. Before they adjourned, Senators failed to pass a short-term extension of the program — which the House has already done — leaving it to expire on April 5 and putting as many as 400,000 people at risk of losing weekly checks. We hit the streets to ask folks what they think about that in the ColorLines video above.
The emergency-spending bill in debate would extend insurance by a month for people who have used up the standard six-month payment. Nearly 23 percent of people out of work — or, around 3.4 million Americans — have been jobless for more than a year. That’s the highest long-term unemployment rate we’ve seen since we started tracking it, according to a Pew Economic Policy Group study.
But Oklahoma Republican Tom Coburn is filibustering the month-long extension. Last month, Kentucky Republican Jim Bunning did the same, but the caucus didn’t stand behind him and the extension passed. This time around, Republican leadership looks ready to fight. The argument is over how to pay for the extended benefits. Republicans say Congress must be mindful of the deficit and either cut spending elsewhere or take it out of stimulus funding. Democrats say this is an emergency that warrants deficit spending — and note that Republicans weren’t concerned about the deficit when they were passing $1.3 trillion in unfunded tax cuts under President George W. Bush.