Gov. Jay Nixon signed legislation yesterday that will restore federal unemployment benefits for the longtime unemployed, but at a very high cost. The legislation was the result of a compromise between republican Missouri Senate leaders and a group of four republican senators, led by Sen. Lembke, R-Lemay, who had been filibustering to prevent Missouri from accepting $105 million in federal unemployment funds. In return for ending the filibuster the four senators demanded that $250 million in federal funds Missouri has already accepted for other programs will be rejected and that future Missouri state unemployment benefits be permanently reduced form 26 to 20 weeks. Since federal unemployment benefits are tied to state benefits, the future unemployed in this state will lose even more weeks of help.
While the $250 million in cuts will almost certainly mean more people will join the ranks of the unemployed, the reduction in future unemployment benefits is what should have caused the deal to be killed or at least renegotiated. Trading a one time boost in benefits for the longtime unemployed in exchange for a permanent reduction of future benefits for the short term unemployed is unreasonable. This is how social safety nets are destroyed, one strand at a time, one misguided compromise at a time. The families of the unemployed in Missouri will be suffering from this change long after the one time boost in federal benefits have run out.
The speed at which this rotten deal sailed through is frightening. The deal was announced on Friday, passed the Missouri Senate on Monday, the house on Tuesdayand was signed into law on Wednsday. While four republican state senators were able to dictate terms to the rest of the legislature, Missouri's eight senate democrats simply rolled over. No serious effort was made to question the bill or remove the long term cuts in benefits. I hear that there is a thing in the senate called a "filibuster" that can be used to stop bills in extreme cases. Senate democrats should ask Senator Lembke how it works.
Senator Lembke had argued that his opponents had no concern for future and were willing to leave a debt that their children would have to pay. He was right