“It is very clear that the Republicans in the Senate want this economy to fail,” said Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., this afternoon in reaction to the latest efforts in the Senate to block a jobs bill from coming to the floor for a vote.
Her comment during a news conference call was just one of several angry reactions to a spate of right-wing obstruction that cannot be construed as anything other than a middle finger in the face of the unemployed and the economically struggling—and a blown kiss to the wealthy.
Republicans are expected to have an opportunity to take back the insult late this afternoon and allow a vote on HR 4213, the American Jobs and Closing Tax Loopholes Act, which includes extended unemployment and insurance benefits, Medicaid support to the states, and supplemental food assistance. Senate Democrats, though, were skeptical that any members on the other side of the aisle would step up to the plate.
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Their latest failure to do so was Wednesday, when they formed a solid wall of opposition to a version of the bill that had already been seriously diluted in an effort to win one or two Republican votes.
Stabenow says what the conservative bloc is doing in the Senate constitutes the most vile form of politics. “It appears that everybody in the Republican caucus has gone purely into election mode [before] the fall. If they can stop the recovery from occurring, if they can create as much pain as possible, people will be angry and will not vote at all or will vote against those in the majority. This is a very cynical political strategy and I sure hope it doesn’t work.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi also blasted the Senate Republicans. The Politico article that quotes her bears a bad, arguably biased headline—”Pelosi stokes House-Senate tension”—but as you will see this isn’t the battle of the legislative chambers; it is a fundamental battle between lawmakers who want to respond to a jobs emergency and ideologues who show by their actions they could care less.
“Time and time again, Democrats in the House have sent legislation to the Senate to create jobs,” she said. “What did middle-class families ever do to Republicans in the Senate that they would snuff out every opportunity for job creation that has been sent to them?”
This afternoon a coalition of progressive activists groups held a gloomy emergency conference call to assess their strategy. Efforts continue to win over Republican Maine Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins as well as Ohio Sen. George Voinovich. But they have yet to commit to supporting the jobs bill even with all of the concessions that have been made in recent days to address their concerns.
The bill contains some tax fairness provisions that these senators still resist, even as they claim that the spending provisions in the bill must be “paid for.” One change in the legislation would tax most income earned by hedge fund and private equity managers at the same rates as earned income. (In other words, these billionaires would finally be paying taxes at roughly the higher rates of the secretaries who work for them.) The other would end the so-called “John Edwards loophole” that allows people to use corporations to shield their earned income.
This is where we are: A group of senators are standing on principle to protect wealthy tax dodgers while blocking the benefits of people who do not have jobs in may cases because of the recklessness of some of those wealthy tax dodgers.
The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities released a new backgrounder today on some of what’s at stake if the right continues to obstruct this jobs bill. The inability to send Medicaid money to the states “will force states – which are struggling with an unprecedented drop in revenues brought on by the recession – to make deep spending cuts and tax increases in order to balance their budgets. These actions will slow the economic recovery and raise the risk of a double-dip recession as the loss of spending power ripples through the economy.”
The CBPP calculates that the lost aid to the states would force $15 billion in budget cuts at the state level nationwide, which would result in the loss of as many as 900,000 jobs.
But the failure of the bill to pass also means, among other things,  that unemployment checks would run out for hundreds of thousands of workers, other unemployed workers would lose help with their COBRA insurance benefits, and a boost to the Food Stamp program (now called SNAP, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) that was part of the president’s economic stimulus program would be phased out earlier than planned, meaning a loss of $56 worth of food assistance each month for a family of four.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell keeps trying to blame the Democrats, being quoted in a Congressional Quarterly article today that they “will not pass a bill unless it adds to the deficit.” McConnell is convinced that if he and his Republican colleagues say it enough, voters will believe that if only Democrats would stop trying to pass aid to the unemployed and trying to end unfair tax advantages for the wealthy, jobs would fall from the sky—and even the millions of gallons of oil BP spilled into the Gulf of Mexico would be sopped up and in our gas tanks in time for Labor Day vacations.
That’s wrong and we all know it. We need to keep calling our friends in the Senate and tell them to keep at it and that there is an engaged progressive citizenry that has their political back. We need to make our case to the persuadables. And the foes need to hear us tell them that their evil plot to gain power on the backs of our economic suffering will surely backfire.