Not Enough Votes for Extension as Unemployment Hits 6-Year Low

By | December 30, 2014 at 10:27 PM |

For weeks leading into the midterm elections, many wondered whether the results of the election would have any impact on the potential to extend unemployment benefits.

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Few politicians were willing to wade into the discussion during the election for fear that talk of the economy could boomerang and affect their chances of being elected. Now that the election has concluded and the GOP has wrested control, there has remained a small fledgling hope that the lame duck Congress would try to muscle through an extension of long-term unemployment benefits. As the 113th Congress concluded its last days, that hope has fading away.

Even supporters of the bill seem less ardent in their support. According to Sen. Dean Heller, a Republican from Nevada, the prospects of an extension making its way through the lame duck Congress are almost nonexistent. In a recent speech, Heller claimed that leadership on both sides of the aisle have concluded that the votes for an extension simply are not there.

Heller had previously co-authored a bill that would have extended unemployment benefits for a period of five months and included a retroactive element. That bill was countered by a bipartisan extension, introduced by the House. Since then, there has been no action on either bill, largely due to midterm elections and congressional recesses. Now, it seems as though both bills will continue to languish with no action taken.

For their part, Republicans have seemed to have an ideological opposition to the idea of extending benefits and supporting any programs that would result in further government spending. Instead, most GOP leaders have stated a preference for job creation legislation. Given that stance, it remains unlikely that legislation for an extension will be brought up in the new Republican-controlled Congress.

While unemployment may have hit a 6-year low, it can certainly be argued that the need to pass a benefits extension still exists. The Bureau of Labor Statistics recently reported that for the long-term unemployed, not much has changed. Approximately 2.8 million people in the country remain unemployed for more than 27 weeks.

It has now been almost 1 year since the extended benefits program expired. Since then, the long-term unemployed have been left with little more than a hope of an extension. In April, it seemed as though benefits would be extended with the passage of a bill in the Senate. That hope was doused when the bill ultimately expired in the House of Representatives.

Continued supporters of an extension insist that the short-term unemployment rate masks a problem. While the short-term unemployment rate may have returned to normal levels, the long-term unemployment rate remains a serious issue. Currently, the long-term jobless in the United States represent 2 percent of the country's workforce.

While both Republicans and economists have insisted that putting an end to the extended unemployment benefits program would result in a decline in long-term unemployment, that has not proven to be the case.

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