Democrats Offer Republicans a Lifeline on Unemployment Benefits

Greg Sargent reports on the latest maneuvering over the extension of unemployment insurance benefits:

Senate Democrats are closing in on an agreement to pay for an 11-month extension of unemployment benefits with spending cuts that would not go into effect for at least a decade, sources tell me. This would probably be acceptable to liberals, because it would sustain a lifeline for the jobless right now, while pushing off any damage the “pay for” would do deep into the future.

There are two ways to look at this. The first and most obvious is that it’s ridiculous. Democrats are saying they want to spend $17 billion this year in return for $17 billion in cuts in 2023. I don’t really need to point out that nobody over the age of five believes those cuts will materialize a decade from now, do I?

But there’s a second, more congenial way of looking at this: as a lifeline for Republicans. They say they want UI benefits paid for. They also say they truly empathize with folks who have been out of work for a long time. Furthermore, they’re uneasy about their reputation for meanspiritedness and are looking for something that will soften their image. Et voilà! Here’s their solution. Sure, it’s basically sophistry, but no more so than most of what they do every day of their lives. And anyway, everyone knows that it makes no sense to pay for the UI extension in the first place.

So this is it: a way for Republicans to have their cake and nibble on it too. But I’ll bet they don’t bite.