You'd think that this...
More Americans than expected filed initial jobless claims last week, as job creation remains stubbornly sluggish. Claims increased 13,000, to 472,000.
...would not result in this:
The Senate failed Wednesday night to pass an extension of unemployment benefits, and more than 2 million Americans are expected to stop receiving weekly checks by July 10.
But it has, and the reason is that Republicans in D.C. are demanding that any further extension of unemployment benefits be paid for by cuts elsewhere in the federal budget.
Putting his own twist on this refrain, Republican Senate candidate Dino Rossi today is blaming Democratic Sen. Patty Murray for for refusing to "work across the aisle to pass these needed benefits without adding to the deficit."
He's also been accusing her of a flip-flop on PAYGO, the budget rule Murray voted for in January requiring all new Congressional spending to be offset by cuts. If Murray was for PAYGO then, how can she now be for extending unemployment benefits without paying for them?
Or, as Rossi put it in a recent statement:
I don’t think there’s anyone who thinks extending unemployment insurance isn’t important. Patty Murray needs to follow the rules she set by proposing a commonsense solution which extends unemployment insurance for those who are counting on these benefits without adding to the debt.
It sounds good, but there's a major problem with Rossi's contention that he's caught Murray in a flip-flop here.
As I noted yesterday, Democrats like Murray are trying to pass the unemployment benefits extension as emergency legislation. That's not unusual. As Ed Shelleby, spokesman for Seattle Congressman Jim McDermott, told me yesterday:
Restoring unemployment benefits during a recession is considered emergency spending, and extensions of the unemployment program under both Republican and Democratic Presidents and Congresses have been done in the same way.
Emergency spending is explicitly exempt from the PAYGO rules. Which means, said Murray spokesperson Alex Glass, "there’s no flip-flop."
Murray can support PAYGO while at the same time supporting the effort to extend unemployment insurance as emergency legislation—no inherent contradiction there.
Glass said Rossi apparently "doesn't understand" this basic concept, and added: "If millions of unemployed Americans isn’t an emergency, I don’t know what Mr. Rossi thinks is an emergency.”