Unemployment benefit extension battle coming

As President Obama prepares to announce a plan this week to create more jobs, another fight over extending federal unemployment benefits is likely in the offing between the White House and the Republican-led House of Representatives.

The San Francisco Chronicle reports:

The president has called for another extension of benefits. He is expected to bring up the issue next week as part of his jobs package. Since 2009, Obama has been successful in pushing for a 99-week extension, which has been reauthorized five times – most recently as part of the 2010 tax deal that extended all of the Bush tax cuts. But last month’s debt-ceiling package did not include an unemployment extension. The 99-week benefit is set to expire in January.

Now, with the August debt-ceiling deal, at the very least, Republicans have to demand spending cuts to pay for the $56 billion tab for an extension. Moreover, they have to ask whether paying unemployment benefits for almost two years is good for the U.S. economy.

Obama didn’t help his cause when he picked Alan Krueger to chair his Council of Economic Advisers. Krueger, the Wall Street Journal editorialized, has written about unemployment insurance’s tendency to extend how long recipients remain unemployed.

But with at least five jobseekers for every job available, that hardly seems like a viable position in the current context.

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