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“The Coverage Could Get A Lot Worse”: Republicans Will Face Intense Pressure Over Unemployment Benefits

On the morning after lawmakers reached a budget deal that doesn’t include an extension in unemployment benefits, chief GOP budget architect Paul Ryan awoke to a raft of home-state headlines that were all about the nearly 100,000 Wisconsinites who stand to get cut off.

“99,000 unemployed Wisconsinites face cuts,” blared one front page. “Jobless benefits at risk for 99K in Wisconsin,” blared another. “99,000 state residents to lose benefits,” blared a third. You can see those and a lot more at this compilation of front pages put together by Dems on the Ways and Means Committee.

The imminent expiration of the Emergency Unemployment Compensation program for 1.3 million Americans is mostly being treated as a fait accompli in Washington. But it looks to be turning into a very resonant issue in local media in states where many thousands of residents will be directly impacted by it. (Dems have created an interactive map showing how many people in each state stand to lose benefits.)

This fact is central to the emerging Dem strategy to increase pressure on Republicans to agree to an extension. House Dems are working to drum up as much local press coverage of the issue as possible, because local coverage can focus directly on how many constituents in a lawmaker’s state stand to be hurt – making it hit home in a way Beltway media coverage can’t.

For instance, articles like this one in the Las Vegas Review-Journal dramatize the plight of a family set to lose benefits, after the mother was laid off last year from her job as a store manager. Headline: “With benefits on block, jobless Nevadans face uncertainty.” Dems hope such coverage pressures Republicans they deem getable, such as Nevada Senator Dean Heller and Rep. Joe Heck.

This strategy includes placing Op ed pieces by Democrats in papers that serve the districts of top Republicans, such as this one by Rep. Sander Levin in the Cleveland Plain-Dealer, the largest paper in John Boehner’s home state. The game plan is granular: One Democrat points out to me that stats are available on how many would lose benefits on the county level, and that Dems are trying to push these numbers into the coverage, because it is tangible for people in local communities. These numbers are already being reflected in local stories like this one.

Now, it’s fair to question whether Democrats did enough to get a UI extension in the budget deal. Perhaps they could have drawn a harder line on the issue and used their leverage (Republicans will need Dems to pass the deal out of the House) more effectively.

But beyond those legitimate points, it needs to be understood that Dems have not given up on getting Republicans to agree to the UI extension. This could either be accomplished through a stand alone bill or an add on during the budget process, and Democrats continue to press Republicans behind the scenes.

Will any of this matter to Republicans? It’s hard to say, since so many are cosseted away in such safe districts that tough headlines may not matter to them. But the public statements from GOP leaders on the extension have seemed tepid, suggesting their opposition isn’t really visceral. It seems like they’d love for this issue to go away. Boehner has said he’s willing to look at an extension if the White House offers a “plan,” which seems like he’s open to some kind of trade. Of course, conservatives who are already scorching GOP leaders over the deal will only get more outraged if they agree to a UI extension, making it that much harder.

Still, the coverage could get a lot worse, once the deadline looms and human interest stories multiply about folks facing the loss of benefits during the holiday season, at a time when reporters have little else to write about. I wouldn’t give up on Republicans agreeing to the extension just yet.


By: Greg Sargent, The Plum Line, The Washington Post, December 11, 2013

December 12, 2013 Posted by | GOP, Unemployment Benefits | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Between The Right And A Hard Place”: Hey Republicans, Why Should My Family Suffer Because You Have A Partisan Axe To Grind?

When it comes to the federal health care system, congressional Republicans have found themselves in an increasingly awkward position. Their far-right base and allied right-wing activist groups continue to push GOP lawmakers to shut down the government — and quite possibly default on U.S. debts — in the hopes of sabotaging the Affordable Care Act.

And yet, many Americans who recognize the benefits of “Obamacare” continue to push in the opposite direction. We saw this two weeks ago in North Carolina, last week in Florida, and yesterday, this amazing clip out of Nevada was released by American Bridge. Watch on YouTube

In this clip, we see a small business owner in Las Vegas who had some straightforward questions for Rep. Joe Heck (R-Nev.): “Why would you oppose the ACA at every turn?” and “Why would you oppose something that’s helping me now?”

When local events erupted during the 2009 August recess, months before the Affordable Care Act became law, the right found it fairly easy to exploit public confusion — throw around some garbage talking points about “death panels” and “socialism,” and wait for scared people to go berserk.

But as Greg Sargent explained well yesterday, ” We’re a long way from the anti-Obamacare town halls of the magical Summer of ’09.” The public is starting to get a better sense of the benefits of the law, how it will help them and their families, and town-hall meetings that used to serve as opportunities to feed red meat to Fox viewers are suddenly becoming opportunities for mainstream Americans to ask Republican lawmakers aloud, “Why should my family suffer because you have a partisan axe to grind?”

Also note just how few answers GOP lawmakers have in response.

For the right, Republicans are eager to boast about voting to repeal the federal health care law several dozen times, but conservatives are unimpressed — the votes were a vanity exercise with no practical value for anyone on either side of the argument.

For the left, Republicans, as we see with Joe Heck in the above video, have tired cliches and shallow talking points about the number of pages in the legislation.

And for everyone in between, as we’ve seen in Nevada, Kentucky, and North Carolina, Republicans offer reassurances that there are some provisions in “Obamacare” that the GOP likes and wants to keep, which makes it that much more difficult to understand why those same Republicans have voted literally dozens of times to eliminate the Affordable Care Act in its entirety — including the parts they now say they support.

All the while, Republicans have said for nearly four years they’re ready to present a credible alternative to the reform law that’ll work even better than that darned Democratic version, but we’re still waiting, and by all appearances, the party still doesn’t have an actual health care policy.

Can’t anybody here play this game?


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, August 20, 2013

August 21, 2013 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, Republicans | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


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