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Brit Hume: Unemployment Benefits An Admission Of White House Failure

BRIT HUME: The administration's appeal for a further extension of unemployment benefits may succeed in putting Congressional Republicans in a tight spot, if they resist. In that sense, it may be a shrewd political move, yet embedded in it is an extraordinary acknowledgment of failure by the president and his party. We're now four-and-a-half years into an economic recovery the president and Democrats keep telling us is getting better all the time, yet the job market remains so weak, the jobless rate so high, that the president considers it an emergency.

Indeed, that’s the official name of the benefits, emergency unemployment compensation. Normally, payments run out after 26 weeks, but that was extended five years ago to 99 weeks and has been repeatedly extended since. Now though it's running out for an estimated 1.3 million people. No one is arguing these benefits should go on forever, and the White House notes it's asking for about three more months at a cost of about $6 billion. So, will that be the end of it? Will the emergency at last be over? All Obama advisor Gene Sperling would say today is three months would provide time to discuss what to do with the rest of the year. 

Upon taking office, the president and the party set two big goals, one to revive the economy, the other to reform health care. The Obamacare mess tells us where we are on the one; the call for further unemployment payments tells us where we are on the other.

BRET BAIER: What are the prospect of jobless benefits getting through this Congress?

HUME: If the administration and the Democrats are willing to find some offsets, that is cuts in other spending, to cover the cost of the extended unemployment benefits, my guess is it sails through. If they don't, Republicans at least have a talking point to counter the administration's argument that they're being typical Republicans, being hard-hearted and not showing sufficient compassion to those who are downtrodden and out of work. The issue has mileage for the president and his party, particularly if the Republicans resist, but I don't think it overcomes the other issues that I mentioned earlier.

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