Debt Deal Within Reach, What’s Next?

NEW YORK (MainStreet) — With what should be just a procedural vote left to pass the debt deal agreed upon by President Obama and Congressional leaders this weekend, legislators may finally move beyond what has been a single-minded focus for much of this year. While the national debt is vital to the health of the economy, but the result of the back-and-forth is that little else has gotten done in Washington.

If you look on the White House website, you’ll see a list of featured legislation that includes just two bills from this year, both of which were passed in the first week of January at the end of the previous congressional session. Indeed, a review of all legislation signed by the current 112th Congress shows just two dozen bills dominated by minor appropriation measures and personnel appointments.

It should come as little surprise that Washington would be gridlocked, given the heated rhetoric and disagreements on both sides of the aisle about how to get out of the current slump, but that doesn’t make it any less frustrating to the many struggling Americans depending on Congress to fix the economy.

Now that the government has settled on a way to ensure its financial obligations are met, there are a few smaller bills that have been proposed in recent months that have the potential to improve the average consumer’s job and wallet in significant ways, if only Congress can put aside their differences and act.

Help for 99ers

Millions of Americans have been unemployed for more than six months and many are currently at the end of their rope, having used up the maximum allotment for unemployment, which can be as much as 99 weeks for those who lost their jobs at the peak of the recession. Amid all the talk of creating jobs and cutting spending, nothing has been done to provide a lifeline for this group. Earlier this year, several Democrats in the House pushed for a bill called the Emergency Unemployment Compensation Act of 2011, which would have provided an additional 14 weeks of unemployment benefits, but the bill was never approved.

If Congress can get its fiscal house in order in the coming weeks with regards to the debt ceiling, we hope they can find time to direct some of their attention to the long-term unemployment crisis after by passing this bill or a similar one.

End Unemployment Discrimination

Speaking of the unemployed, dozens of companies have been found to discriminate against job applicants who are currently out of work or simply not working full time, making it that much harder for many Americans to find work again. This month, the Fair Employment Opportunity Act of 2011 was introduced into the House of Representatives to rectify that issue, and we would like to see members on both sides of the aisle come together to pass it quickly.

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