Senate Republicans Push Economy Over Cliff, Head Home

Written by SK Ashby

There will be no more pandemic unemployment benefit checks for over 20 million people. There is no money for cities and states. There's no money for schools. There's nothing.

Following a series of failures in which Senate Republicans could not even advance their own measures, they adjourned for the weekend and headed home.

The current $600 per week enhanced federal unemployment benefit expires at the end of the day, though states stopped paying it out last week. After last-ditch efforts to pass an extension failed Thursday, the Senate left for the weekend, guaranteeing the assistance buoying millions of people during an economic crisis will at least temporarily dry up.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., held late-night talks with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House chief of staff Mark Meadows. Democrats, who passed legislation in the House in May that would maintain the jobless benefit into next year, rejected the Trump administration’s offer of a one-week extension, NBC News reported.

“What is a one-week extension good for? A one-week extension is good if you have a bill, and you’re working it out,” Pelosi said after the discussions.

It's not spelled out here, but extending the program for one week at this point would not have made any difference because it's already past time for the next hypothetical payments to be processed. There wouldn't have been any checks this week even with a one week extension.

Simply resuming payments without any changes could take weeks.

But Congress seems unlikely to act before benefits lapse. And because of the antiquated computer systems in many state unemployment offices, which do the processing, it could take weeks to restart payments. That means that millions are likely to see their income drop at least temporarily.

For people depending on the checks, that uncertainty is frustrating.

“I have no idea why Congress would wait until a few days before the checks are going to run out,” said Jacob Perlman, a benefits recipient in Chicago. “This should have been done a month ago.”

Aside from the matter of a one week extension being useless -- Senate Republicans could not even pass an empty shell bill yesterday that could serve as a vehicle for a simple voice vote on an extension or other changes. They were crippled by their own caucus before Democrats even come into the picture.

Republicans are pointing fingers at Democrats today, but nothing can change the fact that they wasted the entire summer. Republicans didn't even start to talk about stimulus until last week while House Democrats extended all of our stimulus programs back in late May.

Tens of millions of people are about to lose $2,400 per month in income and that means missed rent and mortgage payments, no food on the table, and certainly no shopping in our consumer-driven economy.