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Unemployment Benefits Extension Passes Senate

If the Senate does pass a final version of this bill, it will next face a steep uphill battle with a Republican majority in the House. Majority Leader John Boehner has said that, while he is willing to consider extending the canceled program, any bill would have to include spending cuts to offset its cost. This is similar to the position of Senate Republicans. The current Democratic version does not include any mechanisms to pay for itself.

Other House Republicans debate the need for this extension at all. In an interview with Buzzfeed, Oklahoma Rep. Tom Cole expressed general skepticism about the bill, saying that the unemployment crisis has passed.

 

"You're always gonna have the argument that at some point people are losing benefits," he said. "But that's the point, it was meant to cope with an extraordinary situation. But that situation has been dealt with."

According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities failure to extend unemployment benefits will leave nearly 5 million Americans without a means of support by the end of 2014 and has already impacted well over a million.

"[The] long-term unemployed represent 2.6% of the labor force," the Center wrote in a December 11 report. "At 2.6%, the long-term unemployment rate is at least twice as high as when any of the emergency federal UI programs that policymakers enacted in each of the previous seven major recessions expired."

The Center also cautioned against over-reliance on the official unemployment rate, as it under represents the actual number of unemployed Americans. The official number only includes people who actively look for work. Most people, however, stop reporting their job search once unemployment benefits run out since they no longer have a reason to do so. This is why states like North Carolina have seen unemployment fall without offsetting gains to employment after cutting benefits: it changes the recording mechanism, not the labor market.

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