What’s going on the day after tomorrow?
It will be Thursday, and you know what that means. Time to go on vacation!
If you’re an elected member of the U.S. Senate, that is.
Our legislators just returned from a weeklong New Year’s break. They’ve been working at least a good solid eight days, so I think they deserve some more time off, don’t you?
Good thing we have a federal holiday coming up on Monday. A lot of us have to work that day. Some of us who have the day off will be doing volunteer work, making it a day of service. And some of us will just relax and enjoy the three-day weekend.
Not Congress, however. They will be off for eleven days.
Although it’s hard to feel sorry for Congress with that much time off, I must say that I wouldn’t want to be in their shoes right now. Not only is interparty antagonism and bickering causing them to do a Rumpelstiltskin and tear themselves to pieces over the Emergency Unemployment Compensation Extension Act, but now they’re faced with another government shutdown if they fail to pass a spending bill before they go on vacation. In case you’re interested, that’s 1.1 trillion dollars in spending we’re talking about.
A million and a half Americans who lost their federal unemployment extension checks when enabling legislation expired on December 28 were hopeful that a vote Monday might have restored their benefits, at least for a while. But, alas, it was not to be. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid decided to postpone a vote to avoid a likely filibuster and to provide more time for senators to engineer backroom compromise deals. Republican senators want to tack on amendments of every stripe and ilk, most of which have nothing at all to do with unemployment compensation. Reid seems to be willing (reluctantly) to go along with that, but no, that’s not enough for the Republican side of the aisle. They want to ensure that the billions of dollars needed to write those unemployment checks are paid for by cuts to other programs. “My Republican colleagues can’t take yes for an answer!” was his frustrated remark.
So work hard these next few days, Congress. Put your shoulders to the wheel and make it happen. You can do it! Otherwise, close to a million government workers (who are scheduled to get a 1% raise, after all) are going to be on vacation right along with you folks. Only their vacation won’t be paid like yours will be. Until, that is, you finally vote through a bill that makes their paychecks retroactive, like you did the last time.
Well, so far it looks as if you may have the bipartisan thing going sufficiently to keep the government funded. Hmm, think you might be able to do the same for those who have been out of work for more than six months and then lost their income right after Christmas?
Don’t get me wrong. I am not entirely unsympathetic to the Republican position. I do believe that limiting spending to reduce the ginormous federal budget deficit is a laudable goal. However, Congress ought to descend from its ivory tower long enough to make fiscal decisions that will avoid perpetuating misery for millions of Americans. Long enough to empathize with those who have been bounced out of a job and have no means of feeding their families.
Yes, there is room for debate about which programs should be cut. But when you wield that knife, please don’t cut off the nose to spite the face. Thanks.
Kane, Paul, “Reid, Boehner Face Showdowns on Unemployment Benefits, Farm Bill,” Washington Post (WP Politics, January 13, 2014). http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/reid-boehner-face-showdowns-on-unemployment-benefits-farm-bill/2014/01/13/875b3c42-7c6f-11e3-9556-4a4bf7bcbd84_story.html?tid=auto_complete
Klimas, Jacqueline, “Reed Delays Senate Vote on Unemployment Benefits Extension,” Washington Times (January 13, 2014). http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2014/jan/13/reid-delays-senate-vote-on-unemployment-benefits-e/
Mascaro, Lisa, “Senate Closes in on Compromises for Budget, Jobless Insurance,” Los Angeles Times (Politics Now, January 13, 2014). http://www.latimes.com/nation/politics/politicsnow/la-pn-senate-unemployment-benefits-extension-20140113,0,4713360.story#axzz2qMnfSzFO
Montgomery, Lori and Ed O’Keefe, “Lawmakers Unveil Massive $1.1 Trillion Spending Bill in Bipartisan Compromise,” Washington Post (Business, January 13, 2014). http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/members-of-congress-to-unveil-massive-spending-bill-in-bipartisan-compromise/2014/01/13/71db3a8c-7c9e-11e3-9556-4a4bf7bcbd84_story.html?hpid=z1