US Senate to Vote on Unemployment Benefits Thursday
There was an astonished reaction today in Kentucky and in Washington, D.C., to recent TV footage of Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) telling reporters that Republicans support increasing the deficit to renew a package of more than 60 tax breaks, most of which benefit corporations. This comes just weeks after he proclaimed his opposition to passing an extension of emergency unemployment benefits unless they could be offset by cuts in other spending. The U.S. Senate likely will vote Thursday on an extension of unemployment benefits that meets McConnell’s conditions.
Roy Silver, who lives in Harlan County, Kentucky said that “instead of cutting taxes for corporations who have benefited in spite of these hard times, Mitch McConnell should help create opportunities that will sustain our families and communities. “
The 60 tax breaks backed by McConnell – known euphemistically in Capitol Hill-speak as “tax extenders” – expired at the end of 2013. Renewing them would require passage of a new law that would add about $500 billion to the deficit over 10 years, or $50 billion a year.
Here is the revealing exchange between McConnell and a reporter at a televised press conference on the afternoon of the State of the Union address:
Reporter: “Given the debate that’s taken place over the last month about paying for UI [unemployment insurance] benefits, do you guys also plan to push for paying for tax extenders when that comes up again?”
Sen. McConnell: “Typically, Republicans have felt that you shouldn’t have to pay fortaxpolicy. I think occasionally these packages have been paid for, but most Republicans believe that the existing tax policy should not be paid for.”
On January 8, McConnell delivered a speech on the Senate floor stating that he would not support an extension of unemployment benefits without it being paid for. “Look,” he said, “if the Majority Leader wants this bill to pass the Senate, then he’s likely going to have to find a way to pay for it.”
Frank Clemente, Executive Director of Americans for Tax Fairness, said that “it is incomprehensible that MitchMcConnell would deny unemployment benefits to people of his own state while he supports multi-billion dollar, budget-busting tax breaks for huge corporations in far-off places.”
Roy Silver added that “Our local unemployment rate in Harlan Country is 16 percent. Unemploymentinsurance is an important stopgap measure that meets the real needs of Kentucky families, including some of the 6,000 laid-off coal miners, as well as workers all over the country. Corporate tax cuts, on the other hand, are the same-old same-old. They give more to those that have already stacked the deck in their favor.”
Studies confirm what many state residents already know from direct experience — Kentucky still has a long way to go before employment reaches pre-financial crisis levels.
The package of tax breaks that McConnell supports expire every year or two and are routinely renewed with little debate by Congress despite their huge costs. That is in part because of a major lobbying campaign bycorporate interests.