It's so predictable, isn't it? Every time there's legislation to help ordinary working people, the Republicans hold it for ransom until they get... tax breaks! Is there any illness for which they don't see tax breaks as the cure?
A $20 billion-plus package of homebuyer and business tax breaks was advanced in the Senate Monday, together with a precedent-setting expansion of unemployment benefits to help carry the jobless through the holiday season.
Ending weeks of delay, all but two Republicans joined Democrats on an 85-2 roll call to cut off debate. Procedural obstacles remain, but passage this week appears all but certain. The House is expected to take up the measure next and send it on to President Barack Obama for his signature.
Concessions to real estate and business interests helped deliver the package, a remarkable political amalgam given the pain so associated with the long-term unemployed.
The homebuyer credit, which remains controversial, will apply to houses worth as much as $800,000; and businesses of all sizes stand to benefit from a tax break first afforded this year just to those with gross receipts of $15 million or less.
But the biggest emotional driver for Democrats is the prospect of hundreds of thousands of workers exhausting their benefits before Thanksgiving and Christmas without some extension.
The bill seeks to fill this gap by adding up to 20 more weeks in aid — establishing a modern record of 99 weeks when state and federal benefits are counted together. With new unemployment numbers due out Friday, the measure testifies to the enduring joblessness problem even as the economy shows signs of new strength and recovery.