Blame Game Intensifies Over Unemployment Insurance Lapse
Senate Democrats and Republicans furiously cast blame at one another for the looming termination of a key unemployment insurance program as they headed out the door Friday for a two-week Easter recess.
By Friday morning, most lawmakers were long gone following approval of an adjournment resolution. But a handful of Senators remained to carry on an essentially symbolic fight over whose fault it was that the program will run out of money on April 5.
Republicans, hoping to avoid a repeat of Sen. Jim Bunning’s (R-Ky.) unemployment filibuster debacle, said Democrats — particularly House Democrats — were to blame for killing a last-minute deal to extend the program for two weeks.
“I think it would be a good idea for us to stay here and work things out. Unfortunately, we didn’t do that,” Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) said, noting that virtually all the Democrats still present in the chamber voted to adjourn Thursday night while Republicans voted to stay.
“I’m hopeful that when we come back, we can work this out,” said Coburn, who along with Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) set off the fight when they refused to agree to a one-month extension of the benefits that was not paid for.
Not surprisingly, Democrats took the opposite view of the collapse of the extension bill. Sen. Jack Reed (R.I.), whose state is suffering from 12.7 percent unemployment and has become one of the leading voices for the program, argued Republicans were simply being disingenuous.
Reed said Republicans backed significant deficit spending during the Bush administration and added that concern over the debt is “not really what’s at the heart of the opposition to the bill.” He said “selective attention to [the debt] is something we need to be skeptical about.”