Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Tax Cuts For The Rich, No Unemployment Benefit Extensions

Sometimes it is hard to write about politics as this and the next two posts demonstrate. I sit here breathing fire and muttering to myself about "elections having consequences." Well, they do have consequences, though even a Democratic majority in both the House and the Senate doesn't get anything much done.

But it's getting worse:

Senators Jack Reed (D-RI) and Bob Casey (D-PA) want the Senate to take up and pass a one-year extension of unemployment insurance benefits from 26 to 99 weeks, but they did not sound hopeful on a conference call that this could get done before the extension lapses at the end of November.

Getting jobless benefits passed in the lame duck session is going to be a tough road. Congress has always passed emergency funding for extended unemployment benefits in a time of high joblessness, any time the topline rate is over 7.2%. But even with 59 votes, the Senate has faced an arduous series of votes to extend it out month by month this year. The last attempt in April needed multiple cloture votes, with several failing before the final success. At the time, Republicans like Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins said that would be the last extension they would vote for that wasn't offset with some other revenue or spending cut. Ben Nelson (D-NE) has joined them, making it virtually impossible to find the votes.
Gotta tighten that belt, you hear me! Murkans so desire. Should you happen to starve -- well -- the rich can have tax cuts and the government will slim down to a tiny and manageable size. That's what the tea partiers desired right?

Astonishingly, though the Republicans , not even the tea partiers, don't want to be seen as actually cutting the government down to size:

A band of conservative rebels has taken over the House, vowing to slash spending, cut the deficit and kill earmarks.

And of course they'd love a seat on the powerhouse Appropriations Committee so they can translate their campaign zeal into action, right?

Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) was asked to be an appropriator and said thanks, but no thanks. Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), a tea party favorite, turned down a shot at Appropriations, which controls all discretionary spending. So did conservatives like Lynn Westmoreland (R-Ga.) and Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), an ambitious newcomer who will lead the influential Republican Study Committee.

Indeed, the Appropriations Committee just doesn't seem to be the plum assignment it once was, and the line is short for new recruits to join a panel where the longtime focus on bringing home earmarks and other goodies will shift to finding $100 billion in spending cuts. Even conservative reformers who do get assigned to the committee are likely to be stymied once their appropriations bills reach the floor and get amended to death, then potentially earmarked into oblivion by a Democratic Senate.
It's all fun-and-power-games for some, tax cuts for the rich and no unemployment benefit extensions for others. But that is presumably what voters asked for.

Topics stolen from Eschaton.