U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said Wednesday that emergency unemployment benefits likely would have been extended for a short period of time even without the compromise on the Bush-era tax cuts hammered out by the White House and GOP leaders.
President Barack Obama’s agreement to extend the Bush-era tax breaks, including for top income earners, has angered many liberals who say he didn’t take a harder bargaining position with the Republicans.
The deal, which still must get congressional approval, includes not only a two-year extension of the tax cuts but a 13-month renewal of emergency unemployment benefits, as well as a payroll tax reduction.
The latter is expected to provide additional stimulus to an economy still suffering from a high unemployment rate. Other tax provisions — such as the estate tax — also were part of the deal.
Republicans had blocked a vote on extending emergency jobless benefits, saying they should be paid for with excess stimulus money. But Grassley said Wednesday he thinks a three-month extension eventually would have gotten a vote and been approved, albeit along partisan lines.
“I think there would have been some accommodation on unemployment anyway, even if you didn’t have this tax bill,” Grassley said on a conference call with Iowa reporters.
“I think it would have been three months ... a Republican measure would have been offset with stimulus money, surplus stimulus money. And if that didn’t get 60 votes, then it probably would have been not offset, and it would have been passed on a more partisan basis.”
He defended the compromise, saying that although Republicans didn’t get the permanent extension of the tax cuts they wanted, the two-year deal was better than seeing the tax breaks on all Americans end.
“It’s something where everybody was a winner,” he said.
Many congressional Democrats don’t see it that way.
U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, said Wednesday on CSPAN’s “Washington Journal” program that there should have been more of an effort to get more assistance for the middle class and the unemployed. He said unemployment benefits should have been extended for two years and people who have completely exhausted all their unemployment benefits — often called “99ers” for the number of weeks jobless assistance they qualified for — weren’t made part of the compromise deal.
“They’re out of the equation,” Harkin said on CSPAN. “They should be in the equation.”
All the provisions in the deal are being financed with debt at an estimated cost of $900 billion over two years.
Obama defended the deal Tuesday, saying he didn’t want to see unemployed Americans lose their benefits or middle class Americans see their taxes go up.
The president has long opposed extension of the tax cuts for the top 2 percent, but he said a compromise also was necessary.