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Republican Strategy on Unemployment Benefits

This weekend, Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) told Think Progress that Republicans are purposefully slowing down the legislative pace and purposefully blocking stimulative bills to make the jobs situation worse. The worse the economy is, the worse Democrats will do in the midterms, the sound political logic goes.

I do think that this whole approach of slowing everything down, in many ways I think it’s so that, they don’t want a jobs bill because they don’t want people to get jobs before the election. It’s a harsh thing to say, and I don’t want to impugn the motives of my colleagues, but I don’t get what they’re doing otherwise.

Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) said as much in a press call including TWI:

It is very clear that the Republicans in the Senate want this economy to fail. They see that things are beginning to turn around. You know the numbers. When this president took office, we were losing 750,000 jobs a month. … Now we are gaining jobs. … Unfortunately, and cynically [on their part], in cynical political terms, it doesn’t serve them in terms of their elections if things are beginning to turn around.

Greg Sargent at The Washington Post complicates that argument — saying that Republicans want to cast doubt on the idea of stimulus as effective at saving jobs.

The larger Republican strategy — explained to me privately by Republican aides — is rooted in the fact that they believe dragging out any discussion of unemployment helps the GOP in the long run.

Republicans privately admit that the standoff over joblessness may help Dems in the short term, by allowing them to scream about how heartless Republicans are. But their larger strategy is all about casting doubt on the efficacy of the stimulus in particular and on the failure of the Dems’ big-spending ways in general. [...]

This isn’t about Republicans banking on mass economic suffering to help them at the polls. Rather, they’re dragging out the discussion of unemployment in the belief that the public will conclude that Dem policies have failed — and that Dems have their heads in the sand about how much money they wasted on their pie-in-the-sky liberal dream schemes.

Of course, Democrats cannot realistically demonstrate the alternate scenarios that most economists project — that a smaller stimulus would have led to more job loss, and that a larger stimulus would have led to more job growth. That means that Democrats will need to focus on the meager, but present, gains in employment and the Republican stranglehold on Medicaid funding, state aid and expanded unemployment insurance.

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