Posted by AzBlueMeanie:
For weeks, Senate Democrats have tried to pass what's called the "tax-extenders bill" — a key economic package that extends unemployment benefits, maintains popular tax breaks, protects doctors from Medicare cuts, and boosts state aid to prevent massive job layoffs in the states. The bill went down to defeat today, this time as the result of a GOP filibuster on a motion for cloture (60 votes necessary). Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE) joined the Republicans on a 57-41 vote. This almost certainly kills the bill as presently packaged. Parts of the bill can possibly be revived later.
Steve Benen of The Washington Monthly offers this theory behind the GOP obstructionism:
The country needs this bill to pass, but Republicans won't let it come up for a vote.
In the hopes of finding a compromise, Dems have repeatedly scaled-back the measure, watering it down and removing worthwhile investments. The GOP has responded by insisting the reductions aren't enough, and that they still won't allow a vote.
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In the real world, this means millions of jobless Americans will lose their already-modest benefits, and hundreds of thousands of workers will be laid off over the next year, including teachers, police officers, and firefighters. All of this will happen because Republicans are more concerned about the deficit — a deficit they created under Bush/Cheney — than the economy.
It's unpleasant to think about, and I really hope it's not true, but it may be time for a discussion about whether GOP lawmakers are trying to deliberately sabotage the economy to help their mid-term election strategy. After all, these same Republicans have supported deficit-financed tax-extenders before — there's no credible reason to change course now. On the contrary, with the economy struggling to break through, the need for this package is more obvious, not less, if your goal is to actually improve economic conditions.
Steve Benen is not the only one who sees the Republicans deliberately sabotaging the economy as part of a cynical mid-term election strategy. (Republicans have, of course, been engaged in an obstructionist strategy since the first day of the Obama administration).
Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) held a conference call with reporters today and accused Republicans of doing just that. Sen. Stabenow: Republicans "willing to take the people of this country down with them":
[Sen. Stabenow] explained that, after spending "days and days and days, and weeks and weeks and weeks" to get just one Republican to join with Dems in passing the legislation, "it's very clear that the Republicans in the Senate want this economy to fail. They see that things are, things are beginning to turn around…. We're gaining jobs, not as much as we need, but thing are beginning to move in the right direction…. In cynical political terms it doesn’t serve them in terms of their elections if things are beginning to turn around."
She continued, "In addition to just taking a general position of 'no' to everything, they are protecting wealthy investors, corporations that are sending jobs overseas, and oil companies," because in addition to extending unemployment benefits and providing aid to states for Medicaid and other programs, [the bill] has provisions that tax investors, ends tax incentives for corporations that outsource jobs overseas, and raises the fee oil companies are charged for the oil spill liability fund from $.08/barrel to $0.49.
She also complained about the moving target that meeting Republican concerns has become. When asked what happens if the cloture vote fails, she said "We'll put it temporarily aside. We don't have any other choice. We've met every objection on the other side and every time we've done that they've changed the concerns." She said that, specifically Sen. Snowe has had "numerous issues," that she insisted be addressed, and that "they keep changing" as Dems try to answer them. It's cruel, legislative whack-a-mole.
She talked about the consequences. In her state, in Michigan, by the end of the month there will be 87,400 people who will lose their benefits. Who won't be able to pay the mortgage or the rent, or put gas in the car to go look for a new job.
From Mother Jones:
What’s the price of this political obstructionism? In addition to the millions of Americans who stand to lose unemployment benefits, a huge number of private and public sector employees will lose their jobs due to state budget cuts. Without federal help, states will have to pour more money to prop up Medicaid, forcing them to make cutbacks in other parts of the budget. As a result, Moody's chief economist estimates that 200,000 jobs could be axed without federal Medicaid support, and the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities puts the number as high as 900,000—jobs belonging to teachers, firemen, police, and social workers, among others.
While federal and state governments both contribute to Medicaid funding, the economic crisis has left the states in a terrible budget crunch. The federal government has tried to step in, devoting over 60 percent of the federal stimulus money to propping up Medicaid so states wouldn’t have to make other cuts. But that money is now set to expire, and the states have yet to recover from the effects of the recession to make up the difference.
In addition to the unemployment benefit and job losses, the cuts to social services could be brutal.
This should come as no surprise to anyone here in Arizona where the Republican Party has been radicalized by its John Birchers, Tenthers, Dominionists, nativists and Teabagger fringe elements. They speak of the U.S. government as a foreign occupying force. They openly speak of sedition and secession, and even of taking up arms against the U.S. government. It should not be surprising then that Republicans would deliberately sabotage the economy as part of a cynical mid-term election strategy to cause the economy to fail – again, and to blame Democrats for GOP obstruction.