The Senate passed a one-year extension of unemployment insurance Tuesday, answering Barack Obama's call for the extension to be the “first order of business” upon Congress' return after the holidays. Benefits lapsed for some 1.3 million Americans on Dec. 28, which Obama declared was “just plain cruel.” But extended benefits have become the norm during the Obama “recovery.” Six Republicans – Kelly Ayotte (NH), Dan Coats (IN), Susan Collins (ME), Dean Heller (NV), Lisa Murkowski (AK) and Rob Portman (OH) – voted for cloture, making the vote 60-37.
House Speaker John Boehner has signaled that he's willing to take up the extension so long as it's “paid for” by offsetting spending cuts. That “pay-go” process, after all, was highly touted by Democrats in the early Obama years. However, the Senate bill will cost $25 billion and it isn't paid for. We suspect these six Republicans defected as part of a strategy to keep the focus on ObamaCare for the 2014 elections, rather than going to the mattresses over this extension. We'll see what the House does.
For his part, Obama once again displayed his fundamentally wrong view of economics when he said that “in fact if we don't provide unemployment insurance, it makes it harder for them to find a job.” Paying people not to work helps them work, he says. He then gave anecdote after anecdote of motivated people who have fallen on hard times and need unemployment benefits. That's the easy task of a demo-gogue, however – such stories are common, especially in Obama's “recovery.” But as David Limbaugh writes, “You don't generate economic activity by punishing producers and taking their earnings and giving the money to others. How in the world could that expand the economic pie?” Expanding the pie is the surest way to make sure the most people get some of it.