San José, CA - On Dec. 22, the leadership of the Republicans in the House of Representatives said that they would sign on to a bipartisan compromise to renew federal Unemployment Insurance benefits. This compromise had passed the Senate by an 89-10 vote earlier in the week. The House Republican action came after intense pressure from the unemployed, Democratic politicians and even Republican Senators after the House of Representatives had voted down the compromise bill on a 229-193 vote on Dec. 20.
The compromise bill will renew federal extended unemployment benefits until the end of February. If the leadership of the Republicans in the House had not backed down, more than 1.5 million jobless workers would have lost their benefits in January, and another 3.5 million more unemployed would have been cut off by the end of May.
The first to lose their benefits would have been the more than a half a million unemployed collecting federal Extended Benefits (EB), who would have been be cut off immediately. Next would have been the 3 million jobless workers on the federal Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC) who would lose their benefits over the course of weeks or even months, when they will be unable to advance to the next tier of the EUC program (which has four tiers). In addition about 400,000 jobless workers each month would run out of their state unemployment insurance benefits (which only last six months) and wouldn’t be able to collected extended benefits under the federal EUC program.
In addition to extending federal Unemployment Insurance benefits, the Senate compromise will extended the Social Security payroll tax cut. If the Republicans in the House of Representative had succeeded in blocking an extension, a typical worker would see her or his taxes go up by $1000 over the next year. While the Republicans will claim that they are the party for cutting taxes, the reality is that the only tax cuts that they really care about are those for the wealthy, while they are all too willing to raise taxes mainly paid by working people.
Even though House Republicans did back down now, there will be a bigger battle over the next two months to get a longer term renewal of federal Unemployment Insurance benefits.