The Ryan-Murray budget deal can be seen as a compromise for both parties. But unfortunately for Democrats, and more unfortunately for the unemployed, it doesn't include an extension of unemployment benefits. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has promised that extending benefits "will be the first item we come to when we come back" in the New Year. But Speaker John Boehner might not rush to make a deal.
The White House is still hoping Congress will be able to extend benefits before Christmas, but Reid is already pushing the debate to 2014. “This is something we’re focused on like a laser and we’re going to continue to working on it and I’m confident we’ll be able to extend unemployment benefits,” he said Thursday. He also noted that "of course we’ll try to make [benefits] retroactive for the days that we lose." Benefits for 1.3 million jobless Americans are set to run out on December 28.
Boehner says he's open to a deal, but wants Democrats to come up with a way to pay for the extension. "I said we would clearly consider it," he said on Wednesday evening, "As long as it was paid for and as long as there are other efforts that will help get our economy going once again. I have not seen a plan from the White House that meets those standards," he said.
The Hill reports that Reid does not think paying for the benefits should be offset with "spending cuts or deficit-reduction measures." So surprise, these two guys disagree.
Unemployment benefits are a part of the ongoing effort to lessen the blow of the recession. Currently, 2.6 percent of Americans have been out of work for the long-term. As Joe Weisenthal at Business Insider explains, "in the past, special emergency benefits were let to expire when the rate of long-term unemployment was around 1 percent or less." Letting unemployment benefits expire now is ripping the rug out from under people too soon, some would argue.
Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin, chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, doesn't want to see the issue die. "I’m very upset," he told The Hill. "Where are my Democrats? Why didn’t we put that in [the budget deal]?"
The Atlantic's Matthew O'Brien thinks Congress just cares more about reducing the deficit than providing benefits to people who can't find work. "See, this deal doesn't come up with the $25 billion we need to fund extended unemployment benefits," he wrote Wednesday. "It cuts the deficit another $23 billion on top of the sequester instead."