In early August, the U.S. Congress voted to again extend unemployment benefits out to 99 weeks for workers in states — like Michigan — that have been hardest hit by the current economic downturn. It was the sixth such extension since June 2008, and is projected to add an additional $34 billion to the federal debt.
Republican members of Congress said they would support the proposal only if the Democrat majority agrees to pay for it without adding to the federal debt. According to The Wall Street Journal, U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-KY, offered four different proposals that would have paid for the extension using unused stimulus spending — which is basically old debt — rather than adding more new debt. But each option was rejected by the Democrat majority.
Late last month, the Michigan House of Representatives approved House Resolution 309, which asked for this federal renewal of the unemployment benefits, and also for additional Medicaid spending. As originally drafted and introduced by Rep. Lisa Brown, D-West Bloomfield, the resolution did not express any concern about the likely source of the funding — namely tens of billions in additional borrowed money.
Two Republican amendments attempted to modify the resolution to reflect GOP concerns about the federal budget debt.
The first proposed amendment, offered by Rep. Tom McMillin, R-Rochester Hills, anticipated what appears will be the eventual decision to go ahead and borrow the money from future generations of Americans. McMillin asked that the title of the resolution be changed to the "lay more horrendous debt on our children and grandchildren resolution."
The Democrat majority gaveled down this prescient suggestion without taking a recorded roll call vote.
The second amendment proposal, offered by Rep. Pete Lund, R-Shelby Township, asked that the following instruction be added to the end of the resolution:
"Resolved, That we memorialize the United States House of Representatives and Senate to identify the funding source to pay for the extension of unemployment benefits and the extension of the FMAP funding to states before they take action on such items. ..."
The Democrat majority approved of this language and added it to the resolution. However, as noted above, the spending bill working its way through Congress does not pay heed to this request. Future generations of Americans will be left to decide how to pay for unemployment benefits that will be approved by the proposal.
Even with the new language, McMillin and four other Republicans still voted against sending House Resolution 309 to the U.S. Congress. The resolution was approved on a vote of 102-5. The Michiganvotes.org roll call vote for the resolution is noted below.
Contact information for members of the Michigan House is available here.
The original version of this story was posted online on July 20, 2010.