Congress: Extend Unemployment Benefits For Three Months And Make A Deal

imgres“I challenge any lawmaker to live without an income.”

This was the message of President Obama’s press conference this afternoon on his first order of business for 2014: extending insurance for the unemployed.

As Congress went home on December 28th on break, 1.3 million Americans lost their jobless benefits. But 1.3 million people is just the beginning if Congress doesn’t pass a bipartisan bill to extend unemployment insurance for the next three months – over 14 million Americans will suffer in the next year.

This is surely something to be avoided – no matter ones political affiliation.

President Obama argued that the Republican stance that giving unemployment benefits will sap Americans’ motivation to seek work is totally wrong headed and I am inclined to agree.

That said, it is also important to note that Obama’s stance that he has “never met an American who would rather have an unemployment check than the pride of having a job” has been shown to be untrue: those seeking benefits has grown exponentially during his time in office. There is certainly an argument to be made for Americans recklessly abusing our benefits system, but there are also genuine job seekers to consider in the extension of unemployment benefits.

Just a few hours ago, the Senate passed a procedural vote to extend unemployment benefits for three months. Six GOP senators voted for extending benefits, including Nevada Senator Dean Heller who co-sponsored the bill.

House Speaker Boehner has already made it clear that he will oppose the bill once it gets to the House in its current form. It looks like we will be facing another partisan showdown – and one hardly worth the effort.

To my mind, the left is not emphasizing the benefit to the economy that extending these jobless benefits will create enough. The extension is, indeed, a pro-growth policy. It will create jobs.

Democrat Senator Chris Coons from Delaware touched on this point earlier. He argued that we must focus on creating a pro-growth economy where we invest in skills training, job creation, infrastructure and education. Extending unemployment insurance is a first step towards this.

Crucially, we need to get past narrow partisan ideology and get this passed to support job seekers and those that need assistance.

Washington has been able to put partisanship aside for this issue in the past. In fact, it has been done multiple times when the unemployment rate was significantly lower than it is today.

The economic recovery in a big country like the US was bound to be uneven, as we’ve seen. And extending jobless benefits for the next three months will help to address this issue.

As Charles Krauthammer articulated, Republicans need to accept this short-term extension of jobless benefits. It’s in their own self interest to do so both for the sake of Americans in their own states and the prospect of getting a long-term deal that will make it clear that unemployment insurance is not an entitlement, but a way to help people.

It seems to me that neither party can argue with this way of looking at the issue.

Helping Americans, even temporarily, will reap greater benefits than the cost. American businesses have created more than eight million jobs since the financial crisis hit, but there’s more to do.

Extending emergency employment insurance helps the economy and creates new jobs. It’s as simple as that.