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Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Senate advances extension of unemployment benefits

Posted By on Tue, Jan 7, 2014 at 10:31 AM

The Senate invoked cloture (defeated filibuster) 60-37 today and that clears the way for a vote on a three-month extension of unemployment benefits.

Pasage of the bill would move the issue to the House where, among others, U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton could be expected to continue past criticism of extended unemployment benefits by voting against the measure. His November opponent, Sen. Mark Pryor, voted to invoke cloture. But it's not yet clear if the unemployment bill won't be set aside on account of other pressing issues before the Senate. Plus, some who voted for cloture won't vote for the $25 billion in benefits without offtsetting savings.

You'd think continuing a pittance in basic support for long-term unemployed in a tough labor market would be more popular than a let-them-starve vote. But maybe not. Take Arkansas. Income inequality has to be about as bad here as anywhere — with Walton heirs at the top and the struggling remnants of the Delta plantation culture at the bottom. But we've always been a low-wage, anti-worker state and the prevailing sentiment is that we still aren't sticking poor people enough. Thus Republican opposition to an increase in the minimum wage and support for still harsher workers comp and lawsuit limitation laws. All this doesn't seem to influence voters much. For that reason, I don't think an income inequality platform will get far in Arkansas.

In recent days I've heard Republicans talking about the disincentive of unemployment benefits who've included wealthy families that benefit from special Medicaid programs that aren't tied to family incomes and families whose children have received enormous college scholarship benefits because of their low family income. Disincentives to work? Go figure.

PS — I should have mentioned that Dr. No Boozman voted against a little help for the unemployed. But you probably guessed as much.

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