Democrats couldn't be bothered to lock a significant deal down when they still had control of both houses. Remember when I called all those congressional offices, and was told "there's no political will for another tier of benefits"? I can't tell you how much that still irks me. Despite being in the middle of a major economic meltdown, but the thought of demanding additional unemployment benefits terrified them and they curled up in the fetal position instead:
WASHINGTON -- The long-term unemployed have been left out of a deal between congressional negotiators and the White House to enact massive spending cuts and raise the nation's debt ceiling before its borrowing limit is reached on Tuesday.
Under the so-called grand bargain President Obama tried to strike with House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), federal unemployment benefits would have been extended beyond January 2012, when they are set to expire.
But those negotiations collapsed in July. On Sunday, congressional leaders and the administration crafted a not-so-grand bargain that will cut spending without raising taxes or preserving stimulus programs like federal unemployment insurance.
Asked Sunday night why spending to help the unemployed had been left out of the deal, a White House official said, "because it had to be part of a bigger deal to be part of this."
In other words, Democrats need significant leverage to get Republicans to agree to additional spending on the unemployed. Federal unemployment insurance programs, which kick in for laid off workers who use up 26 weeks of state benefits, cost a lot of money: Keeping the programs through this year required an estimated $56 billion. In December, Democrats only managed to keep the programs alive for another 13 months by attaching them to a two-year reauthorization of tax cuts.