House Threat to Reject Bipartisan UI and Payroll Tax Extension Will Harm Families

Dec 19, 2011

By Neil Ridley

Once again Washington lawmakers are demonstrating how disconnected they are from the daily lives of ordinary people.

About 13.3 million Americans are officially unemployed, and 43 percent of them have been out of work for six months or more. Millions more are so discouraged they have stopped looking and more still are underemployed or working part-time because they can't find full-time work. Yet even this stark reality isn't enough to convince some lawmakers to cease with political tussles and, instead, make hard decisions in the best interest of their constituents.

Although Democrats and Republicans in the Senate reached a compromise on Saturday and voted overwhelmingly to pass a two-month extension of the payroll tax cut and federally funded unemployment benefits, House leadership is threatening to reject the bill over what can only be viewed as political wrangling.

The bill, though not ideal, will keep critical benefits flowing to millions of jobless Americans and their families while Congress resolves a longer-term extension.

In 2010 unemployment insurance kept about 3.2 million people out of poverty, according to the Census Bureau. Unemployment is a stopgap for many struggling families that allows them to meet their basic needs while they look for work. For some, it is the difference between making housing payments, buying groceries, and paying utility bills. Simply put, it makes a difference. The House's action or inaction will affect the daily lives of millions.  If Congress allows this assistance to lapse, more than one million workers will exhaust benefits by the end of January.

Political brinksmanship should not get in the way of helping jobless workers and their families who are struggling and dealing every day with the jobs crisis. Senate leadership from both parties decided to compromise because it's in the best interest of the nation's families. The House should follow suit and do the same. 

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