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QEDaily: The Fight Over Unemployment Benefits Continues

Getty Images/Scott Olson

It was a slow news day yesterday. Even so, most of the political press will probably miss what ought to be an important story: Senators Jack Reed and Dean Heller proposed a bill to extend federal unemployment insurance.

If that sounds familiar, it’s because Reed and Heller proposed a similar bill earlier this year. The Senate passed it but the House did not. That legislation called for extending benefits for five months, retroactive to December 28, when the benefits previously expired. The idea was to make sure eligible, long-term unemployed workers would have no lapse in payments. They’d get a lump sum for the weeks when unemployment insurance had stopped coming, and then continue receiving money up through the end of May—by which time, hopefully, Congress would have found a way to pass a new extension and keep the program going. 

Congress has taken similar action before. But the end of May came and went—and House Republicans wouldn't budge. Now Heller and Reed have decided, in effect, to start all over again. Their new proposal would simply extend benefits for five months, effective whenever the bill became law. There’d be no back payments this time, but all workers who were eligible for benefits during the interim period would retain their eligibility. Has this won them new support? It would not appear so. This bill, like the last one, is widely assumed to be dead on arrival in the House. 

The stakes here are big. There are still 3.4 million long-term unemployed workers in the country. That’s higher than any point in U.S. history outside of the past few years. If the Reed-Heller bill became law, approximately 2.9 million of them would be able to collect benefits for a few months, during which time the job market would likely strengthen—and their prospects for finding employment would likely improve. Now they’ll have to keep doing what they’ve been doing—which, in many cases, means struggling to get by.

By the way, the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities calculates that 300,000 of those 2.9 million would be veterans. That’s ironic, because Republicans have spent the past month (rightfully) decrying the Veterans Affairs department for the scandal at its hospitals. The veterans who are out of work are also suffering—and helping them is a lot less complicated than fixing the bureaucratic and funding crises of the VA.

Worth Reading:

HEALTH: A measles outbreak is spreading through the Amish population in Ohio, prompting many to get vaccines. (Sarah Jane Trible for NPR)

CLIMATE: Wednesday is the one-year anniversary of Obama rolling out his big climate change agenda. In a sign that he won't be slowing down, Obama is speaking at League of Conservation Voters to mark the date. (Kate Sheppard, Huffington Post)

ECONOMY: Neil Irwin reports that housing prices are rising at a slower rate than in previous years—and explains why that’s a good thing.

Three cheers for inflation: Kevin Drum says rising prices are good for you.

Statistic that shocked us even existed: 167 people correctly bet that Luis Suarez would bite someone during the World Cup. Yes, a Norwegian gambling site actually had that as a prop bet. (Odds 175-to-1.)

Article so laughably misleading we won't even link to it: Sharyl Attkisson of the Daily Signal, Heritage's in-house publication, wrote a long piece on the alleged failures of Obamacare. Don't go googling it—please, we beg you. Just read Charles Gaba's thorough and very accurate rejoinder.

Policy stories we’ll be watching: Not that much happening today. We’re interested in the fallout from Thad Cochran’s surprise victory over Chris McDaniel last night. Democratic senators Joe Manchin and Sheldon Whitehouse will have a discussion on the Senate floor about the new EPA regulations, which Manchin opposes and Whitehouse supports. Plus, Obama will meet with Senate Democrats this evening.

Now at QED: Rebecca writes about what may be the most under-reported part of the immigration story. Ed Kilgore, a veteran of efforts to remake the Democratic Party in the 1990s, tells reform conservatives "you're doing it all wrong."