Baucus, Senate Dems Push for Unemployment Benefit Extension
by Jonathan Singer, Tue Jan 29, 2008 at 12:40:32 PM EST
Max Baucus and the Senate Democrats more broadly catch a lot of flak (at times rightfully so) for not sufficiently fighting for progressive ideals in their policies. But taking a look at Baucus' stimulus bill, which stands in a bit of a contrast with the legislation agreed to by the President and the House leadership, it appears that it's the Senate Democrats, and Baucus in particular, who are fighting for at least one important progressive aspect of a stimulus bill: an extension of unemployment benefits.
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) today unveiled a proposed economic stimulus package providing a flat $500 rebate to any American with $3000 of qualifying income to report on a 2007 tax return - including tens of millions of seniors living on Social Security. Rebates would be doubled for married couples filing jointly, and families would receive an additional $300 per child under age 17. The Baucus plan extends Federal unemployment insurance benefits for jobless Americans in all states by 13 weeks, with additional benefits for workers in states with high unemployment. Businesses losing money in the economic downturn will be allowed to write off losses retroactively for as many as five years. Scores will be available later today, but the total package is expected to cost approximately $156 billion.
The Senate bill lifts the cap for individuals, effectively pegged at $75,000 for individuals and $150,000 for couples filing jointly in the House bill, meaning that the highest wage earners would receive tax rebates as well. What's more, it seems that those earning less than $3,000 per year would not get a rebate in the Senate bill but would in the House bill (at least as best I can tell from these initial reports). However, the Senate version extends unemployment insurance, which is extremely important to ensuring that those most adversely impacted by the current economic downturn, will have some of their troubles at least partly alleviated. The agreement between the House and the President does not include such an extension.
In the end, the proof will be in the pudding, and leadership from both parties in both chambers of the Congress will likely have to get together to forge a compromise bill. But it is nevertheless good to see that the extension of unemployment benefits is now at least on the table.