Dems Dare, GOP Calls Bluff on Unemployment Benefits

House Democrats failed again to pass an extension of unemployment benefits that would have kept payments flowing through November. The $34 billion bill was considered “emergency” spending and thus not subject to pay-as-you-go restrictions.

As much as Democrats favored the policy, they set up the vote to get a favorable political outcome either way.

The bill was considered under suspension rules, which meant that the measure would have required a two-thirds majority of the votes cast to pass. Democrats essentially dared Republicans to vote against the measure, believing they would score a political win even if they didn’t get a policy victory.

If the bill had passed, Democrats believed they would have won by advancing their agenda in a “bipartisan” fashion, as the Democrats do not control enough seats to pass suspension bills on their own.

Since the bill failed by a vote of 261-155, Democrats said that even though a majority of the House wanted to extend benefits obstructionist Republicans stopped the measure in its tracks.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., was quick to pounce. “Congressional Republicans refused to extend a lifeline to millions of Americans who lost their jobs through no fault of their own” Pelosi said in a statement, “This is simply the latest example of Congressional Republicans putting partisan politics ahead of the public well-being.”

House Republicans countered that they too wanted to extend benefits, but they did not want to do so through deficit spending. “The American people know it isn’t right to simply add the cost of this spending to our already overdrawn national credit card,” said Rep. Dave Camp, R-Mich., the ranking member on the House Ways and Means Committee, “They want to help those in need. They also know that someone has to pay when the government spends money.”