Democrats Plan to Fight For Unemployment Benefits in January

| Fri Dec. 13, 2013 2:47 PM EST

Greg Sargent reports on the latest Democratic plan to get Republicans to agree to extend unemployment benefits:

Dems who are pushing for an extension have hatched a new plan to do just that: Once Congress returns, they will refuse to support the reauthorization of the farm bill — which will almost certainly need Dem support to pass the House — unless Republicans agree to restart unemployment benefits with the farm bill’s savings.

“Under no circumstances should we support the farm bill unless Republicans agree to use the savings from it to extend unemployment insurance,” Dem Rep. Chris Van Hollen, a top party strategist, told me today. “This is a potential pressure point. We’re going to have to resolve differences in the farm bill because otherwise milk prices will spike. If past is prologue, they are going to need a good chunk of Democrats to pass the farm bill.”

Good. In normal times, of course, all the usual arguments against extending benefits would be pretty compelling. It really would provide a disincentive to go out and find work. But today, when there are three or four job seekers for every job available, that's just not an issue. People aren't unemployed for long periods because they're lazy. They're unemployed because they can't find a job. Lots of them are married and college educated. As AEI's Michael Strain points out, "Someone who has been unemployed for 30 or 35 or 40 weeks, and is in their prime earning years with kids and education ... It strikes me as implausible that this person is engaged in a half-hearted job search."

Even lots of conservatives agree that we should continue to extend unemployment benefits as long as the job market remains anemic. This really shouldn't be a partisan issue.