Democratic senator: GOP using unemployed people as pawns to make Dems fail

By Sahil Kapur
Tuesday, July 20, 2010 8:51 EDT
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WASHINGTON – A Senate Democrat charged that the chamber’s GOP leader is compelling his colleagues to block the extension of unemployment benefits in an effort to prevent economic recovery and tarnish Democrats ahead of the November elections.

“I think there are some Republicans that want to vote for it who don’t, because [Senate Minority Leader] Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is putting so much pressure on Senate Republicans for President Obama and the Democrats to fail,” Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) told Raw Story and other reporters on a conference call late Monday afternoon.

“And it’s too bad that McConnell does that on the backs of … people that are really, really hurting,” he added.

The call was part of a targeted effort by White House and Democrats to sharpen their attacks on Republicans ahead of a tough midterm election climate, in which Democrats are widely projected to lose seats in both chambers of Congress.

Brown accused Republicans of duplicity for arguing that unemployment benefits must be paid for in order to win their support.

“They voted for Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, charged it to our grandchildren, didn’t pay for it,” he said. They “voted for the giveaway or bailouts to drug and insurance companies in the name of Medicare privatization, charged it to our grandchildren, didn’t pay for it.

“And now they’re saying, because these are laid off workers who have done the right thing for most of their lives and now need some help, that we can’t provide it for them. It’s terrible public policy.”

Some Republicans, such as Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ), have argued that offering relief to the unemployed discourages them from seeking a job and thus delays economic progress.

Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI) and economist Larry Mishel, president of the Economic Policy Institute, were also on Monday’s call.

Speaking in the Rose Garden Monday, Obama delivered a similar rebuke to Republicans.

“The same people who didn’t have any problem spending hundreds of billions of dollars on tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans are now saying we shouldn’t offer relief to middle class Americans,” Obama said.

The jobless benefits package is up for another vote Tuesday.

“This is something we are going to get done tomorrow,” Brown said.

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