by Emily J. Martin, Vice President,
National Women's Law Center
Not too surprisingly, the plans to extend unemployment insurance and COBRA subsidies by unanimous consent in the Senate did not go off without a hitch. Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma took his turn last night to block an extension of the enhanced benefits currently due to expire at the end of the month, insisting that they be paid for using stimulus funds that already have been committed to other purposes.
Unemployment insurance benefits and COBRA subsidies are very effective methods of stimulating the economy, because the unemployed people who benefit from these measures generally have no choice but to quickly spend the extra cash in their pocket. Funding these benefits by taking money away from other stimulus purposes, however, essentially cancels out this stimulus effect.
Because of Coburn’s objection, the Senate can’t quickly pass the extension today before starting the two-week Easter recess this weekend. But this is too important an issue to let slide just so that Senators don’t have to disrupt their travel plans. Tell your Senators to urge their leadership to bring Senators back to town next week to give struggling workers, families, and communities the support they need. After all, unemployed workers don’t get a recess from joblessness.