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Republicans Blame the Unemployed for Unemployment, and Block Needed Benefits

It's been a week since more than 200,000 people were booted off unemployment insurance, because the Senate failed to extend the program before taking a vacation. Senate leadership has promised to take up the issue today but Republicans are showing no signs they'll budge on demands that the extension be funded without adding to the deficit. Some have even said that unemployment benefits are causing high unemployment, blaming the jobless for the jobs crisis.

Last week, ColorLines went out on the street to hear from folks facing cutoffs. For the hundreds of thousands already without benefits, the lapse has been trying — and if the Senate delays passage of an extension, even more will lose benefits.

Before the recess, Senator John Kyl, a Republican from Arizona, pulled a Jim Bunning and blocked the one-month extension. Though unemployment has usually been paid for through emergency spending measures in rough periods, Republicans are refusing to support the extension if it adds to the federal deficit. As Washington gets to work again, the Washington Independent reports:

Two Senate aides say that Republican senators will offer pay-go and possibly other amendments to the benefits extension. Those amendments will likely delay the passage of the bill — meaning more people will lose benefits, if only temporarily.

Continued delay, even if temporary, will mean more unemployed people falling through the cracks, unable to feed and house their families or to continue paying for needed retraining or college classes. More people than ever before are experiencing long term unemploymentof over a year. Extended benefits are all many of these people have.

To extend benefits to these people, Democrats need at least one Republican vote.

But Republicans are obstructing passage — and some, including John Kyl, have even argued that the extensions contribute to high unemployment. In previous debate, Kyl said that unemployment insurance "doesn't create new jobs. In fact, if anything, continuing to pay people unemployment compensation is a disincentive for them to seek new work."

Blaming the unemployed for high unemployment, and refusing to extend benefits, seems about the most crass ideological game Republicans could choose to play. They appear to be playing hard.

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