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Bush Signs Extension of Unemployment Benefits

Congressional Democrats haven’t had much luck with efforts to move stimulus legislation this week. Plans to pump billions of dollars into public works projects and state Medicaid programs went precisely nowhere. And a push to provide Detroit’s sputtering automakers with emergency cash never got over the hurdle of GOP opposition.

Party leaders will go into Thanksgiving with one victory, though. This morning, President George W. Bush signed a $6 billion bill extending unemployment benefits for seven weeks nationwide. In states where unemployment is above 6 percent (including Michigan, California and Florida) the extension will be 13 weeks. The House passed the bill in the first week of October, and the Senate followed suit yesterday.

If you’re feeling a touch of deja vu, there’s good reason. Washington has already extended jobless benefits once this year — by 13 weeks back in July. Citing that effort, the Bush administration had initially opposed another round. It argued that “unemployment benefits should be

temporary in nature to encourage a return to work as quickly as possible.”

Faced with the ever-sinking economy, however, Bush had little choice but to sign the bill.

Indeed, the Labor Dept. reported yesterday that first-time jobless-benefit claims in the first week of November jumped to 542,000 — up 27,000 from the week before and the highest number since 1992. Nationwide, unemployment stands at 6.5 percent, but that figure is expected to rise above 8 percent next year.

And we thought that Iraq would be the Bush legacy…

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