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Seven Days for Unemployment Extension

Arthur Delaney notes that Congress, when it returns from campaigning and the midterm elections, will only have seven working days to reauthorize extended unemployment benefits before they expire. Last time around, it took 50 working days — more than two months, total:

Congress has blown reauthorization deadlines for extended unemployment benefits three times already this year. The first two lapses were brief; they happened because of obstruction by Senate Republicans. The third lapse lasted for nearly two months, however, as Democratic leadership in the House and Senate fought Republicans and a handful of deficit hawk Dems over whether or not the $33 billion cost of the reauthorization should be offset with spending cuts.

HuffPost asked House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Tuesday if she expects the upcoming reauthorization to be less difficult than the last one.

“Well I hope so, because it’s certainly going to be harder for the people whose benefits are expiring,” Pelosi said. “So many people have come up to me to say ‘thank you,’ whether it’s in airports, or just working people in different situations or not-working people saying, ‘We’re professionals, we’ve always worked. We were desperate, and then we got that unemployment insurance.’ They weren’t even people who were used to getting unemployment, but it really saved a lot of people.”

Of course, Congressional Democrats never wanted to have to reauthorize unemployment benefits at all. They had always intended to create an automatic extension system, tied to state unemployment rates. (SNAP benefits, formerly known as food stamps, work somewhat similarly, with the benefit tied to food prices.) But Republicans obstructed every time they moved a bill containing the benefits forward — meaning they forever had to whittle benefits down and work on shorter sunsets.

I would be surprised if Congress managed to get any bill quickly, given that Republicans will insist on offsets that are increasingly hard to find. That spells trouble for the 3,965,778 people currently claiming federally extended benefits.

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