Fiscal Cliff: Congress’ Dysfunction Affects Unemployment Benefits for Millions

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Update: Congressional leaders are now scrambling to find ‘fiscal cliff‘ compromise

The epic dysfunction of Congress will hit more than 2 million Americans who will stop receiving unemployment benefits after Dec. 29, even if lawmakers are able to cobble together some kind of short-term fiscal cliff deal in January.

For those Americans on the federal Emergency Unemployment Compensation program, after Dec. 29 that program will cease to exist.

“The 11th hour has arrived,” NELP director Christine Owens said in a statement on Thursday. “Other consequences of going over the fiscal cliff won’t be felt for some time, but losing Emergency Unemployment Compensation will deliver an immediate and severe blow to people who are already down.”

While Congress seems to be acting under the notion that it can still stave off the implementation of the fiscal cliff tax hikes and budget cuts by taking action sometime in January, it doesn’t appear that the lawmakers are paying any attention to the unemployment benefits. Though President Obama has included them in his recent comments, members of the House and Senate have been disturbingly silent.

Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) is one of the few who mentioned them.

“One of the things we’re concerned about is the unemployment insurance for millions of Americans expires on Dec. 31st and that will leave millions of families without the assistance they need because they’ve been unable to find employment,” Hoyer said during a press conference at the Capitol.

But even Hoyer got the expiration date wrong by two days.

During the summer of 2010, unemployment benefits lapsed for weeks as the Senate fought— when a deal was finally reached, unemployed people received lump sums accounting for the benefits they’d missed.

With an historically low approval rating of just 18 percent, Congress this year is about to set a record for epic incompetence. Unless Congress sends nearly 100 bills to President Obama for signature over the next four days—virtually impossible since it is mired in fiscal cliff deadlock—this session of Congress will go down in American history as the most unproductive session since the 1940s, which is as far back as the records go.

According to a Huffington Post review of all the bills that hit President Barack Obama’s desk this session, the president has signed 219 bills passed by this 112th Congress into law. In comparison, the last Congress passed 383 bills, while the one before it passed 460.

The previously most unproductive session was in 1995-1996, which had just 333 bills became law during that two-year period. So the 112th Congress needs to send nearly 100 more bills to Obama’s desk in the next few days if it wants to avoid going down in history—not going to happen.

More on this subject from ABS:  John Boehner Faces a Career-Defining Moment with Fiscal Cliff

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