It's official: Gridlock is winning the battle over an unemployment extension. It's June 1, the day after a Senate-passed unemployment benefits extension would have expired, and advocates are no closer to restoring them.
An estimated 2.9 million unemployed workers have been cut off from the now-defunct Emergency Unemployment Compensation program. A House discharge petition started by Democrats aimed at forcing the bill on the floor stalled at 193 signatures — 25 short the 218 needed. No one has signed since March.
President Barack Obama and Congressional Democrats may not have "given up" on an unemployment extension , but the agenda of the president and of Congress has been focused elsewhere — on the Veterans Affairs scandal, on Obama's new plan to cut carbon emissions at power plants, his plan to phase troops out of Afghanistan, on a last, major push for an immigration overhaul, and assorted other issues. Next week, Obama will head to Europe and most of Congress will remain focused on those other issues.
As the House left last week without acting, a flurry of Democrats went to Twitter to vow to fight on, but with no clear strategy to do so. Here's a typical tweet from Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J.:
Its not over. The fight must continue MT @SantYahoo: Where do we go from here. It's over I guess. Saddest day of this awful journey #RenewUI — Cory Booker (@CoryBooker) May 30, 2014And one from Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I.:
Disappointed House GOP has blocked bipartisan #RenewUI fix. Helping job seekers is still the right thing to do & so we will keep trying. — Senator Jack Reed (@SenJackReed) May 30, 2014Reed has talked up attaching a yearlong extension of the benefits and considered dropping retroactive benefits in a bid to get the blessing of House Republicans.
Labor Secretary Thomas E. Perez also took to Twitter:
We can't give up on the long-term unemployed; too many people are suffering. I continue to urge Congress to #RenewUI. — Tom Perez (@LaborSec) May 29, 2014Perez earlier offered to negotiate an extension with Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, who stuck the Senate's unemployment bill in a drawer, but that effort didn't go anywhere either.
There's also still no word on President Barack Obama personally getting engaged or calling Boehner .