With the GOP filibuster broken in the Senate, the legislation authorizing $33 billion in unpaid-for unemployment benefits heads to a final vote in the House, according to the Washington Post. Over the course of three different votes in the Senate, it has been an ugly fight all around.
Here are five lessons from the fight over jobless benefits for Republicans to keep in mind:
1. Democrats--up to and including the president in the Rose Garden--are willing to demagogue that Republicans are everything from “misguided” with a “lack of faith in the American people” (President Obama’s words) to standing “against the middle class again and again” (Majority Leader Steny Hoyer) to just plain “cruel” (Speaker Pelosi). There’s no doubt this line of attack will continue from now until the November midterms, and it’s probably going to get a lot uglier as more unpaid-for spending is proposed by congressional Democrats. Take a look at Chris Matthews’s grilling of Congressman Mike Pence on Hardball this week to see what I mean. [See who supports Pence.]
2. Republicans argued that they were in favor of the unemployment benefits, it’s just that they had to be paid for with offsetting spending cuts. But when Democrats countered that Republicans favor extending the Bush tax cuts on the “wealthiest Americans” without offering offsetting spending cuts, there was a loud silence from the right. Republicans need an answer. (See the Pence interview above.) Rep. Paul Ryan’s “Roadmap for America’s Future,” which lists specific reforms to rein in out-of-control spending and enact reasonable entitlement reform, should be required August recess reading for every Republican.
3. Speaker Pelosi’s contention that the unemployment benefits would “create jobs” exposed her lack of understanding when it comes to Main Street employers and how jobs are created. Steve Forbes was on Dylan Ratigan’s MSNBC show this week, and did a good job of explaining the economic uncertainty that Obama is creating, and why businesses are hoarding literally billions in cash and not hiring. Conservative business leaders like Forbes are a great counter to academics like pro-spending economist Paul Krugman, and Republicans should point out as often as possible that Democrats like Obama, Pelosi, and Reid have never run a business and don’t understand real-world economics. Having former businesspeople like Republican candidates Carly Fiorina, Meg Whitman, and Nikki Haley talking about job creation is even better. [See a slide show of 11 hot races in November.]
4. The fight over whether unemployment benefits should be paid for revealed the disconnect between Washington politicians--the majority of which are Democrats--and the rest of the voting public. Politico’s poll from earlier this week showed that there is a huge gap between the opinions of average Americans and “D.C. elites” (which I took to mean mostly liberals--Gallup listed D.C. as the #1 Democratic “state” in the U.S., with 75 percent of the populace identifying as Democratic as of January 2009. And that was before all the Obama appointees arrived!) In the Politico poll, 53 percent of the general public ranked taxes as a “very important” issue--showing how concerned Americans are with their upcoming tax bills--while 37 percent of D.C. elites said the same; also, while 68 percent of Washington elites said the antitax, antispending Tea Party movement is a “fad” and that it will “go away soon,” only 26 percent of the rest of the country agreed. Both groups seem to agree that the top issue facing the country is “jobs and the economy,” but there seems to be a big disagreement about whether unemployment benefits that drive up the deficit also actually create jobs and stimulate the economy, as Democrats alleged. I don’t think too many Americans outside of Washington will buy that argument this fall. [Check out our editorial cartoons on the Tea Party.]
5. Finally, the fight over unemployment benefits just made the work of the deficit commission much harder. If President Obama had asked Senate Democrats to pay for the bill out of unused stimulus funds, he would have had 100 votes and a nice bipartisan win. Instead, he attacked Republicans and had to wait until minutes after a new Democratic senator, Carte Goodwin, was sworn in in order to get his 60th vote. Here was a measure that everyone supported--jobless benefits--yet the fight was over whether or not it should be paid for. Imagine the fight when it’s an unpaid-for measure that not everyone supports. Just getting Democrats to live by the spirit of PAYGO isn’t working at all; how on Earth are they going to make the tough decisions that are still to come? The faster the deficit commission members can start talking about what needs to be done, and getting the public on their side, the better. Commission members Rep. Paul Ryan and Sen. Tom Coburn are good, common-sense, persuasive speakers--not to mention my personal favorite, commission cochair and former Sen. Alan Simpson. They’ve got their work cut out for them. [See who gave the most to Coburn.]
- See a slide show of 5 things Republicans can learn from the unemployment bill.
- See a slide show of Obama's 5 worst cabinet secretaries.
- See which industries give the most to Congress.
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