99ers. Yesterday I asked several members who know what’s going on and what is likely to happen about the 99ers.  Will there be a vote on H.R. 589 (unlikely)? Will there be anymore funding to help them etc and so on.  The 99ers are those who have already exhausted their unemployment benefits. The bottom line is that members do not sound hopeful. Rep. Sander Levin, who is the most senior member of the House Ways and Means Committee (and who is leading the charge to extend unemployment benefits in general) was almost speechless when I asked him about the 99ers last night.  Remember that Levin is in the minority in the House and out of power.  Other than speak loudly ad raise awareness there isn’t a lot he can do.  But Levin did understand the problem (like all the others I spoke with), understood the need to assist the 99ers. He mentioned that someone asked him about the 99ers at a town hall in Michigan on Monday. Levin, like most members is a realist.  He did not want to give false hope when he knows the politics are difficult, particularly in the GOP controlled House.  People of course are tired of words and they want results.  Though Levin is more powerful and senior in the party than Barbara Lee…

…Rep. Barbara Lee is the biggest 99ers supporter in Congress.  She is doing more than any other member for the 99ers in terms of bringing the issue up repeatedly in conversations with the White House, on the House floor, at press conferences and in meetings. She was the only member yesterday to say the words “99ers” at the podium.  Lee and Scott will more than likely be pushing for their bill to be attached onto a bigger spending bill as part of a bigger deal (which is the way it works around here).  Note the Lee/Scott legislation in $16 billion and the one year cost of the Bush tax cuts for people at the highest income levels is $400 billion.

What people should expect from public officials is that they do the maximum with the power that they have.  Remember that the US House is 434 members, 242 Republicans and 192 Democrats.  House members in the minority party do not have that much power but so far the members pushing on this particular issue appear to be doing the maximum with the limited minority power they have.  Specific for the 99ers, that comes down to Lee and Scott, who from the beginning of this year have brought the issue to the attention of others. Note that Scott mentioned yesterday that “half the people unemployed aren’t collecting any benefits at all” (because they’ve run out…).  Videos from yesterday: