The U.S. House of Representatives will convene on Sunday in a last-minute attempt to avoid the steep spending cuts and tax cuts planned to take effect by the end of the year. But Sunday will already be too late for long-term unemployment insurance, which will almost definitely lapse on Saturday thanks to congressional inaction.
Based on the National Employment Law Project, a worker advocacy group, over 2 million Americans will stop receiving benefits after Dec. 29, when the federal Emergency Unemployment Compensation program will cease to exist.
"The 11th hour has arrived," NELP director Christine Owens stated in a statement on Thursday. "Other consequences of going over the fiscal cliff won’t be felt for some time, but losing Emergency Unemployment Compensation will deliver an immediate and severe blow to people who are already down."
It won't be the first time in recent years that lawmakers will watch idly as countless millions of Americans stop getting federal unemployment insurance, which kicks in for workers who use up the standard six months of state-funded benefits. Throughout the summer of 2010, benefits lapsed for weeks as the Senate squabbled over the spending. After lawmakers eventually hit a deal, unemployed individuals received lump sums accounting for the benefits they'd missed. Presumably, the same thing would result if Congress reauthorizes the benefits early in January.
Democrats have demanded a complete reauthorization of emergency benefits right through next year, which would cost $30 billion, according to the Congressional Budget Office. The current regimen of benefits provides as much as 47 weeks in states with high unemployment rates, for a combined 73 weeks of state and federal compensation. Jobless workers in just nine states are qualified for the whole duration.
Republicans have been closed-mouthed about the benefits, which many observers consider a sign they will not be a deal-breaker for the GOP . President Barack Obama included unemployment compensation when he called on Congress to pass a scaled-down "fiscal cliff" bill late last week.
The benefits have been overshadowed by other aspects of the fiscal cliff, the nickname for the minute when many spending cuts and tax hikes will take effect at the end of the year. The greatest disagreement is around taxes -- Democrats want to let the expiry of tax cuts on household incomes above $250,000. However Representative. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) gave the unemployed a shoutout on Thursday.
"One of the things we’re worried about is the unemployment insurance for millions of Americans expires on Dec. 31st and that will leave millions of families without the assistance they need because they’ve been unable to find employment," Hoyer said during a press conference at the Capitol. In his speech, Hoyer named the incorrect expiration date for the benefits -- it is actually two days earlier.
"I’ve never seen a public as energized or as knowledgeable about an issue as they are about the fiscal cliff," Hoyer said. "I don’t mean that they know every paragraph, sentence, and ramification of the failure to stop going over the fiscal cliff, but they know it will not be positive. They know it will have a negative impact on the economy and they know it will have a negative impact on them and their families. And they are expecting us to be here to work, and we’re not."
[tabs slidertype="left tabs"] [tabcontainer] [tabtext]John Ensign [/tabtext] [tabtext]Newt Gingrich [/tabtext] [tabtext]Charlie Rangel [/tabtext] [tabtext]Paul Ryan [/tabtext] [tabtext]Michele Bachmann [/tabtext] [tabtext]John Boehner [/tabtext] [tabtext]Al Gore [/tabtext] [tabtext]Strom Thurmond [/tabtext] [tabtext]Mitt Romney [/tabtext] [tabtext]Mark Foley [/tabtext] [tabtext]Sarah Palin[/tabtext] [/tabcontainer] [tabcontent] [tab] Then-Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.) was a proponent of the Federal Marriage Amendment, that would have banned states from recognizing same-sex marriage. "Marriage is the cornerstone on which our society was founded," he argued upon the Senate floor in 2004. He also called upon President Bill Clinton to resign over the Monica Lewinsky scandal. Yet in 2009, Ensign admitted that he had had an extramarital affair with a former campaign staffer who was also the wife of one of his top aides. An ethics investigation by the Senate Ethics Committee along with the FBI followed, and Ensign resigned in 2011. [/tab] [tab] Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) has a long and rich history of hypocrisy, including getting a reported $1.6 million in consulting fees from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac before blaming the home loan titans for the country's housing crisis and endorsing President Barack Obama's healthcare plan before the 2012 presidential primary run, during which he hammered Mitt Romney's Massachusetts plan for being equivalent to Obamacare. However his crowning hypocrisy was probably leading impeachment proceedings against President Bill Clinton in the 1990s over the Monica Lewinsky scandal while Gingrich himself was having an extramarital affair. His ex-wife Marianne recently claimed that while they were married, Newt requested an "open marriage" to ensure that he could continue the affair with his now-wife, Callista. [/tab] [tab] Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.) stepped down as chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee after he was congressionally censured for failing to pay income taxes and submitting misleading financial statements, among other misdeeds. But that didn't stop him from hammering Mitt Romney for his lack of transparency on tax returns. "Before he judges other people about paying federal income taxes, Governor Romney should come clean about the tax returns he's hiding from voters," Rangel said. [/tab] [tab] The failed vice presidential candidate has been an outspoken opponent of earmark spending, but that didn't stop Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) from arranging a $735,000 earmark to construct a transit center in his hometown of Janesville, Wis. Likewise, soon after slamming President Barack Obama's stimulus package, Ryan sought stimulus revenue for many projects in his district. [/tab] [tab] Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) was the initial sponsor of legislation to repeal the Affordable Care Act, but her war against "socialized medicine" hasn't prevented husband Marcus from applying for public funds for his "pray away the gay" counseling practice. Bachmann, an outspoken opponent of big government, has even personally benefited from federal farm subsidies. She recently defined the Internal Revenue Service, which earlier in her career employed her to sue people in income tax collection cases, as "the most heartless organization anyone knows of." [/tab] [tab] House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has congratulated himself for the GOP House jobs package -- even though economists say the package's 32 bills will do little to create jobs -- while working hard to block President Barack Obama’s $447 billion jobs plan. A longtime critic of wasteful national spending, Boehner (along with some other House Republican leaders) spent $1.5 million defending the Defense of Marriage Act. [/tab] [tab] He won the Oscar for "An Inconvenient Truth" and a Nobel Peace Prize for his work on climate change, but Al Gore's own carbon footprint was once an inconvenient issue. His 20-room Nashville mansion and pool house in 2006 racked up $30,000 in utility bills, consuming more than twenty times the national home average, according to a report by the Tennessee Center for Policy Research. A Gore representative disputed the conservative think tank's report and said that renovations on the home cut its electricity and natural gas consumption about 40 percent by the next year. [/tab] [tab] Sen. Strom Thurmond (R-S.C.), a famed segregationist, spent many of his 48 years in the U.S. Senate battling racial integration and equality, punctuated by his 24-hour filibuster in a failed effort to kill the Civil Rights Act of 1957. Six months after Thurmond's death in 2003, a biracial woman named Essie Mae Washington-Williams revealed that the late senator was her father. Her mother had been 16 and working for Thurmond’s parents when she became pregnant. [/tab] [tab] From his opposition to President Barack Obama's health care reform, which was patterned after his own plan in Massachusetts, to his politically expedient shifts in positions on immigration, climate change and abortion, Mitt Romney has a record of hypocrisy too expansive and well documented for any Etch A Sketch to erase. [/tab] [tab] During his time in office, former Rep. Mark Foley (R-Fla.) introduced a bill against child pornography, fought to expand federal sex offender laws, supported anti-gay legislation and chaired the House Caucus on Missing and Exploited Children. Then he was caught sending graphic sex messages to underage males working as congressional pages. He quickly resigned in 2006. [/tab] [tab] Sarah Palin has been an outspoken opponent of President Barack Obama's health care plan, but a more socialized system wasn't always so problematic for her. In 2010, she admitted to having taken trips across the Canadian border to receive single-payer health care long before she brought "death panels" into the war against the Affordable Care Act. [/tab] [/tabcontent] [/tabs]