Colorado Fourth District Democratic Rep. Betsy Markey voted with Colorado Republican Reps. Doug Lamborn and Mike Coffman against extending unemployment benefits to jobless constituents Thursday. Markey’s nay vote was expected. Markey, a moderate so-called blue dog Democrat who is engaged in a tough re-election battle this year in her conservative district, voted against an earlier version of the bill. Thursday she was one of only ten Democrats to join 142 Republicans in voting against the bill based on concerns it would increase the deficit.
“The [unemployment insurance] extension wasn’t paid for,” Markey Spokesman Ben Marter wrote to the Colorado Independent in June, after the last vote. “The bill spent money without cutting somewhere else. Rep. Markey supported a measure that would have used [stimulus] funds to pay for it, but that measure failed, so the bill went straight to the deficit.”
That statement matches with a statement released today by Sixth District Republican Mike Coffman, explaining that his vote didn’t mean he was opposed to extending the benefits.
“I support an extension of unemployment benefits and would have voted for the bill if it had been paid for with unspent stimulus funds.”
As the Independent reported in June, analysts like those at the National Employment Law Project (pdf) see the deficit argument against unemployment extension as misguided. In a cratered job market and with low consumer spending stunting economic recovery, cutting unemployment extension, of all the programs lawmakers could cut, they say, makes no economic or mathematical sense. The $34 billion cost of extending unemployment benefits is a tiny fraction of this year’s budget deficit compared for example to the trillions in deficit spending that goes to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The nation is weathering a stubborn unemployment crisis and Markey’s own Weld County suffered the greatest employment drop in the state from December 2008 to December 2009, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Employment in the county plunged 6.6 percent. The national averaged a 4.1 percent drop. The Greeley Tribune reported on the Bureau’s findings earlier this week for the major cities in Markey’s district.
Colorado’s jobless rate held steady at 8 percent in June, down from 8.3 percent a year ago. Nationally, the unemployment rate for June was 9.5 percent. But in Greeley, unemployment went up to 11.3 percent in June, from 10.2 percent in May. Fort Collins went to 7.8 percent from 7.2 percent while Loveland went to 5.9 percent from 5.4 percent for the same time period.
Greeley’s unemployment rate for June 2009 was 8.6 percent.
After months spent trying, the Senate yesterday voted to pass its version of the extension bill, clearing the way for the House to sign off on it and releasing funds to millions of jobless Americans. Two Republican joined with the majority to finally pass the senate version.
In the House today, 31 Republicans voted with the majority in favor of HR 4213 and 10 Democrats voted against the bill with the minority. The bill passed there 272 to 152.
Democrats Diana DeGette (CD1) Jared Polis (CD2) and Ed Perlmutter (CD7) all voted for the extension, as did Colorado’s other “blue dog” Democrat John Salazar (CD3).
Democrats joining markey in voting against the bill included, Brian Baird (Wash.), Marion Berry (Ark.), Bobby Bright (Ala.), Jim Cooper (Tenn.), Baron Hill (Ind.), Mike McIntyre (N.C.), Walt Minnick (Idaho), Glenn Nye (Va.) and Heath Shuler (N.C.).
Hat tip to Jimm Phillips at the Washington Independent.