After The Filibuster: Republicans Committed To Protecting The Rich, Ignoring The Jobless

July 20, 2010 5:47 pm ET — Alan Pyke

Senate Democrats just broke a Republican filibuster to extend jobless benefits through November. The 60-40 vote caps months of delay and disruption from the Senate GOP. This fight taught us a lot about the Republican approach to spending.  

The GOP is making two steadfast commitments: first, Republicans have made it clear they will block extensions of unemployment benefits until they are deficit neutral; second, they are adamant that the Bush tax cuts be renewed in their entirety without regard for the deficit.

Ever since Sen. Jim Bunning (R-KY) first took a stand against unemployment benefit extensions, the GOP has demanded that the cost of the emergency extensions not be added to the debt. Meanwhile, Republicans have gradually revealed the one thing that doesn't offend their deficit-spending complex: Tax cuts for the rich.

This morning on MSNBC, Sen. John Barasso (R-WY) joined Sens. Jon Kyl (R-AZ), John Cornyn (R-TX), Judd Gregg (R-NH), Mitch McConnell (R-KY), and House members Pete Sessions (R-TX) and Michele Bachmann (R-MN), in arguing that the $678 billion cost of extending the Bush tax cuts for the richest 2% of Americans should be borrowed from our grandkids — unlike jobless aid.


SEN. BARASSO: I think it's a fair question 'cause I think raising taxes right now is gonna make it worse on the economy and add to unemployment. People in this country are focused on jobs, the economy, debt and spending, and the president's been ignoring those things.

Sen. Barasso should look at the polling a bit more closely; majorities ranging from 52%-74% view helping the unemployed as a higher priority than limiting the deficit. And despite what he says, unspent stimulus dollars are simply not going to offset the cost of another decade of upper-class tax relief.

None of this should be at all surprising by now. Republicans around the country have been eager to share their feelings on the unemployed.

South Carolina Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer compared the poor to "stray animals" who "don't know any better," and then defended shortchanging the unemployed on the grounds that "Laziness is not a disability." Wisconsin Senate candidate Rob Johnson (R-WI) and Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) are the latest GOP figures to bash the unemployed. In Nevada, Sharron Angle said jobless aid spoils workers, implying that people would rather collect unemployment insurance than work a real job.

Maybe this bad press is what lured Rep. Steve King (R-IA) to the House floor last night to make the absurd argument that Republicans haven't obstructed jobless benefits at all. (Our timeline shows King is completely wrong.)

With the Republican filibuster finally broken, and Republican leadership embracing Bush economic policies, the GOP is going to need a better defense than "the unemployed are lazy" or "the Democrats did it."