Polarized Washington sets new low in failing to extend unemployment benefits

Congress has never before let federally extended unemployment benefits drop with an unemployment rate so high: That is the takeaway from a searing new report from the National Unemployment Law Project and the Center for American Progress.

The report analyzes the historical scope of the current unemployment benefits extension, and argues for the value of the benefits for families and — especially — the many millions classified as long-term unemployed. It notes that in the past, Congress has extended benefits until the unemployment rate has dropped to 7.2 percent or lower. Economists do not project the jobless rate to fall that low until at least 2013.

House and Senate Democrats are currently mounting a push to re-up federally extended unemployment benefits for another three months or more. Republicans are proving recalcitrant, arguing they will not vote for bills that increase the deficit. Most unemployment extension bills cost around $35 billion — about one percent of the $3.6 trillion federal budget.

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