Democrats Look to Fantasy Savings to Save Unemployment Insurance

Democrats will gladly pay Rand Paul Tuesday for unemployment insurance today.

Photo by Bill Pugliano/Getty Images

I’d been hearing dribs and drabs about a bold new Democratic attempt to extend unemployment insurance not just for three months (like the bill being debated in the Senate) but through the year. Burgess Everett confirms the details: Democrats want to extend the cuts of sequestration by a year, saving $17 billion, thus paying for all the UI. “Democrats took the temperature of their caucus during a party lunch,” he reports, “and are awaiting a score from the Congressional Budget Office that they believe will show the sequester extension will raise about $17 billion and the benefit crackdown about $1 billion, enough to extend unemployment benefits through mid-November.”

A progressive’s first reaction might be “oh, come on!” A conservative might have the same reaction. The conservative would be right. If 2013 taught us anything about sequestration, about automatic cuts, it’s that they’re not as painful as advertised but painful enough to be blithely undone in budget deals. “There is a recurring theme in Washington budget negotiations,” said Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul at the end of last year, when the most recent deal was cut. “It’s, I’ll gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today.”

Republicans keep saying they’ve got a pack of amendments ready to go, ready to be added to an unemployment insurance bill, ready to change the way the money is handed out, and save money. Democrats won’t allow votes on the amendments, which we haven’t seen, anyway. They want to go back to the sequestration well, knowing it can be refilled at any time. House Republicans, who’ve been watching from the cheap seats, won’t easily go along.