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Conservatives Just Killed 240,000 Jobs


Conservatives in Congress just fired 240,000 American workers. Conservatives in Congress just killed 240,000 jobs. Conservatives in Congress just essentially added 240,000 more Americans to the ranks of the unemployed. However you frame it, people who want to work and have been working
are soon to be out of work, thanks to GOP Senators members who refused to reauthorize — even for three months — a stimulus program so successful it won praise from Republicans like Mississippi governor Haley Barbour.

Steve Benen explains.

At issue is the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Emergency Fund, which should have been one of the most popular programs in Congress. A key component of the Recovery Act, the fund subsidizes jobs with private companies, nonprofits, and government agencies, and has single handedly put more than 240,000 unemployed people back to work in 32 states and the District of Columbia.

Governors, including Mississippi's Haley Barbour (R), have sung its praises, and urged its extension. In July, CNN called the TANF Emergency Fund " a stimulus program even a Republican can love."

Except, Republicans didn't love it. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) led the floor fight this week, and was even willing to accept a compromise: instead of a year-long extension that Democrats had requested, Durbin sought a three-month extension, at a cost of just $500 million, in order to keep the fund alive through the end of the year. Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) refused to allow it.

"The majority has known this program was going to expire at the end of this month all year and has taken no steps to reauthorize this important social safety net program," said Enzi, who blocked Durbin's request for "unanimous consent" for a reauthorization.

Of course, GOP Senator Judd Gregg (N,H.) killed a Democratic effort at reauthorization in March of this year. Just last week, GOP Senator Orrin Hatch shot down Democratic Senator Max Baucus's attempt to reauthorize the program as part of a "tax extenders bill." And the House approved a bill reauthorizing TANF back in May.

They have been trying to kill this program for just as long as the Democrats in Congress have been trying to extend it.

Conservatives chosen to increase the unemployment rolls, increase the welfare rolls, and increase the number of families in poverty on what basis? Based on what principle?

What do conservatives have against a program that put 240,000 people to work in the middle of an unemployment crisis? What do they have against the 240,000 people who wanted to work and were working until conservative obstruction killed their jobs?

I heard one of those 240,000 speak back in May, when congressional conservatives were already targeting TANF for elimination. His name was Charles Jenkins.

"I am a father," Charles Jenkins, 55, says by way of introducing himself, "and I have worked all of my adult life; more than 30 years. I am here testifying today because I need a job."

Employed by a as a driver for a transportation company, Jenkins was hospitalized in 2009 due to serious illness. Like too many American workers, Jenkins had no sick leave to fall back on, was was terminated. He began receiving unemployment benefits and food stamps.

Unemployed for nearly a year, Jenkins has applied for "10 to 12 jobs a week" without success. He has begun working as a community organizer in training at the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, through the Targeted Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) Emergency Contingency Fund subsidized employment program. That will end on September 30, and Jenkins will join the unemployed African-American men in Chicago and the more than 1.4 million unemployed African-American men across the country.