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GOP's Hatch: "Standard Practice Not to Pay for Things" During Bush Years

January 7, 2014

The Senate on Tuesday morning voted 60-37 to advance a bill extending long-term unemployment benefits for three months. Despite the support from six Republican Senators, its fate in both Houses is still uncertain. To secure final passage, Susan Collins (R-ME) told President Obama he'd have to "help us find an offset" for the $6.4 billion cost. Meanwhile in the House, Speaker John Boehner insisted that the temporary emergency measure affecting 1.3 million Americans "should not only be paid for but include something to help put people back to work."

That's an odd statement for any Republican leader to make, given the GOP's obstruction of almost every job creation effort proposed by President Obama since 2010. But the Republicans' demand for a "pay-for" to cover the price tag of the UI package by cutting spending elsewhere is especially ironic. After all, Congressional Republicans never attached any strings to the five unemployment extensions they gave President Bush. Of course, that was because during the Bush years, as Utah Republican Senator Orrin Hatch explained in 2009, "it was standard practice not to pay for things."
As Politifact noted in 2010:

We found several instances of President Bush signing into law unemployment insurance extensions. Some extensions were highly targeted, such as aid to airline workers after 9/11 and to victims of Hurricane Katrina. But Bush signed two general extensions in 2003 for 13 weeks each, with significant Republican support. He also signed extensions in 2008 with Republican support.
We were unable to find any instances when Bush asked for an extension of unemployment benefits and Congress refused him.

Those several instances included the Unemployment Extension Act of 2008 which President Bush signed into law on November 20, 2008. Passed with the overwhelming support of Congress as GDP was contracting by almost 9 percent and jobless claims topped 500,000, CNN reported at the time:

It calls for extending benefits by at least seven weeks in every state, and by 13 weeks in states with unemployment rates of at least 6%. It is the only bill passed so far by the lame-duck Congress.

None of the Bush extensions of unemployment insurance benefits were paid for. Then again, neither was just about anything else. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Bush tax cuts, TARP and the Medicare prescription drug program were completely unfunded, with the costs never offset by either new tax revenue or spending cuts elsewhere in the budget. It's no wonder the national debt nearly doubled during President Bush's tenure. That's also why Congressional Republicans voted 7 times to raise the debt ceiling for Bush. And the same GOP leaders demanding a "pay for" now--Mitch McConnell, John Boehner, Eric Cantor and Paul Ryan--voted for all of it.
As for Orrin Hatch, he missed Tuesday's vote due to the inclement weather which has brought travel in much of the country to a standstill. But even though Hatch in 2010 called for drug testing those receiving jobless benefits, food stamps and other federal payments, he has been sympathetic to extending unemployment insurance. As he put it in December, "I don't want to leave people hurting." And when a Republican sat in the Oval Office, Orrin Hatch didn't care whether Uncle Sam had the money to help the hurting. In 2009, he defended his support for the $400 billion Medicare drug program while opposing the Affordable Care Act which is forecast to reduce the national debt:

Six years ago, "it was standard practice not to pay for things," said Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah. "We were concerned about it, because it certainly added to the deficit, no question." His 2003 vote has been vindicated, Hatch said, because the prescription drug benefit "has done a lot of good."

Of course, for Republicans, that was then and this is now. And now, a Democrat is in the White House.


Jon Perr
Jon Perr is a technology marketing consultant and product strategist who writes about American politics and public policy.

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