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Lee + Scott Offer Unemployment “99er” Bill

Rep. Bobby Scott and outgoing CBC Chair Rep. Barbara Lee offered bill to help "99ers" late Friday.

H.R. 6556: Reps. Barbara Lee + Bobby Scott offer 11th hour “99er” Bill, To provide for the further temporary extension of the emergency unemployment compensation program and  for other purposes.”

6,000 estates trumps 1,300,000 people without unemployment: The White House was desperate to pass the deal crafted with estate tax champion Sen. Jon Kyl and GOP Leader Mitch McConnell unchanged — so as not to bother anyone.  Accordingly, no provision was added for the unemployed who already exhausted their unemployment benefits (aka “99ers”).  In a familiar theme that has remained unchanged for most of the year, rank and file members of the CBC continue to put their focus on jobs and the unemployed as the White House drifts to other topics.  Lee and Scott attempted to get the language in this bill into the $900 billion tax bill just passed Friday but only the estate tax amendment was allowed to be considered by their leadership.  Now Reps. Scott and Lee have offered this “standalone” bill.  They understand time is short before the 111th Congress ends and the 112th begins on Jan. 5th.

Back in March NPR’s Michel Martin reported read it here that the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) met with Pres. Obama to, “clear the air over lingering tensions on how the Obama administration has handled minority issues.”  After that meeting — which centered on jobs and the unemployed — NPR’s Martin mentioned a “a swirl of complaints that the nations first African-American president is giving too little attention to the particular concerns of African-Americans who are suffering from unemployment rates 50 percent higher than the already troubling 9.7 rate.”

Like many members of Congress black and white, CBC members had been loudly hearing from their constituents on every trip home on the issue of jobs from late 2009 onward.  Problem was, their constituents love the first black President.  No lawmaker dared to tell the folks back home the blunt truth: That the President was doing close to nothing in terms of targeted help for a population dealing with 16.5% unemployment. President Obama had already told USA Today three months before the meeting with the CBC on jobs that,

“The most important thing I can do for the African-American community is the same thing I can do for the American community, period, and that is get the economy going again and get people hiring again,”
— Pres. Obama told USA TODAY in a Dec. 3, 2009 interview

Even though the President continues to repeat that “jobs” is his focus evidence of interest of that “focus” in legislative form has been difficult to find.  H.R. 6556 is yet another opportunity for the President to chime in.  At most, the 111th Congress has five days left.  Let’s see if the White House does anything to push H.R. 6556 read here over the line before the 112th.

Pres. Obama

“Unfortunately, the Congressional Black Caucus’s alternative which would have provided this assistance was not considered on the House floor Thursday night,” said Rep. Scott.  “Instead the House passed a package that adds almost $900 billion to the nation’s deficit but does little to help Americans who are chronically unemployed.”

It will also be interesting to see if this White House can discover black people again this week and evaluate this legislation like they discovered them suddenly on Dec. 10 with a media conference call pushing the tax bill to black journos hours after a CBC presser critical of the legislation.  The WH then held a Valerie Jarrett hosted meeting with black politicos last week.  Though the gatherings show WH interest in issues effecting blacks disproportionately, what has been missing all year is results on the biggest issue of the year: JOBS. No legislation has emerged from these gatherings.  Rev. Al Sharpton has been a frequent WH visitor.  Can anyone name an implemented policy initiative he has won?  Perhaps pushing the passage of the 99ers bill (H.R. 6556) placed in the hopper Friday by CBC Chair Barbara Lee and Rep. Bobby Scott is an opportunity.  To anyone wondering why there is a CBC this moment is instructive.  Who else is  standing up for the 99ers?

Provisions of H.R. 6556:
••• This section provides 14 additional weeks of emergency unemployment compensation in Tier I.
••• This additional benefit will be available for those who have exhausted all their benefits (99ers and other exhaustees) as well as those who will be unemployed this year.
••• This expansion is similar to the expansion in Nov. 2009 which provided an additional week of benefits to Tier II.
••• Adding these extra weeks in Tier I makes them available for all chronically unemployed and not only those currently collecting unemployment benefits from a “high unemployment state.”