Would you work really hard to look for a job if you knew you’d be able to collect nearly two year’s worth of unemployment checks instead? Some Republican legislators are betting the answer is no, which is one of the reasons they blocked a bill that would extend these benefits.
The Senate failed to pass a bill Thursday that would allocate $33 billion for an extension of unemployment benefits and aid to keep budget-strapped state governments afloat. The bill was filibustered by all 40 Senate Republicans and one lone Democrat for the third time in two weeks.
According to the Labor Department, more than 1.2 million Americans will lose their unemployment benefits this week as a result of the bill’s defeat, and many more will lose their benefits in the coming weeks. President Obama has stated that he will continue to push for the bill to pass, but legislators admit that this prospect seems unlikely.
Throughout the debates so far, critics of the bill have essentially focused on two big issues. The first is that this package will add billions more to our country’s already spiraling budget deficit. Democrats have repeatedly countered this point by reducing the size of the bill from a broader bill that totaled $112 billion to the $33 billion bill turned down yesterday, and arguing that about two-thirds of the cost, with the exception of the unemployment benefits, will be paid for by taxes and other means.
According to the Los Angeles Times, “Democrats say all the provisions in the bill are offset by spending cuts and tax increases except the jobless benefits, which Congress traditionally has approved as an emergency without looking for a way to pay for them.”
Ultimately though, the refusal to approve the unemployment extension this time may hinge on a more philosophical question. Do unemployment benefits cause more harm than good by discouraging out-of-work Americans from looking for jobs?