COMMENTARY | The 99ers were again collectively hit with another disappointment from Washington Thursday when Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) announced the cancelation of his scheduled meeting with Representatives Barbara Lee (D-CA) and Bobby Scott (D-VA) to discuss their proposed 14-week unemployment benefits extension designed to aid the 99ers and others among the long-term unemployed. According to Arthur Delaney at Huffington Post, the Speaker was called to the White House to help find some budgetary common ground or implement an agreeable plan to fund the federal government and forestall a shutdown, which is set to occur Friday at midnight.
“We’re disappointed Speaker Boehner had to cancel the meeting,” Lee’s spokesman, Joel Payne, said. “We hope it can be rescheduled for next week.”
99ers went into Thursday hoping for some progress in getting the proposed Lee-Scott legislation to the House floor for a vote. The measure, HR589 (The Emergency Unemployment Compensation Expansion Act of 2011), was designed to not only add 14 weeks of unemployment benefits for the Tier 1 benefits recipients but also to provide 14 weeks of aid to the 99ers retroactively. Boehner and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) had agreed to meet with Democrats to perhaps find ways in which the bill might better find acceptance and passage. Congresswoman Lee had announced at the beginning of March that Democrats were willing to find budget cuts to help pay for the bill, a reaching out to Republicans who, in their ongoing attempts to maintain fiscal responsibility, have maintained that new legislation be funded before it is given a vote.
It has been a long fight for 99ers just to get as far as the Lee-Scott bill. Their efforts to be heard began in late 2009 when their numbers began to grow and jobs availability remained stagnant. They began to organize and push for extended benefits when their numbers reportedly reached into the millions. And as Congress fought of unemployment benefits extensions appropriations in 2010, the 99ers added their voices to the battle. But through it all, nothing was done to aid the long-term unemployed individuals who had exhausted all their regular and extension (Tiers 1-4) benefits.
In fact, only two bills have been introduced that speak directly to the plight of the 99ers. The first was introduced by Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) in August 2010 and was immediately sent to committee (where is remains). The second measure was introduced by Lee and Scott in December and also relegated to committee. However, Rep. Lee resurrected the bill in February and reintroduced it to the House. It may have been pushed aside again had the Congresswoman not made a public statement that she and fellow co-sponsoring Democrats were willing to find the $16 billion-worth (the estimated cost of the 14 weeks of unemployment extension benefits) of spending cuts to the 2011 fiscal budget in order to pay for the bill.
And now, another setback.
But there remains some hope that the Lee-Scott bill will get a hearing by the Republican leadership next week. “Crew of 42,” a blog dedicated to covering activities within the Congressional Black Caucus, reported that there were plans for a rescheduling of the meeting for next week, but details were not provided.
It is estimated that the current sluggish economy and lack of jobs availability produces a job search environment where at least eight people are looking for employment for every job opportunity. It is also estimated that there are 34,000 new 99ers created each week as the that number of unemployed reach the end of benefits eligibility. By official estimate (Congressional Research Survey), there were 1.4 million 99ers as of October. Estimates indicate there are presently well over 2 million. Other estimates suggest that by the end of 2011, the number of 99ers could go beyond 6 million.
Saul Relative holds degrees in History and Secondary Education, and he taught school in West Virginia in the ’80s and Virginia during the ’90s. A student of politics and political movements, he began writing articles covering the political maneuverings of the Bush administration in 2004. Saul turned to writing full-time in 2008, dividing his time between reading and writing about politics and entertainment.