Influential Tea Party groups urge Congress to abandon the long-term unemployed

Heritage Action and the Club for Growth both argue that the long-term unemployment emergency is over

Published January 6, 2014 9:00PM (EST)

Tea Party supporter William Temple of Brunswick, Ga.                   (AP/David Goldman)
Tea Party supporter William Temple of Brunswick, Ga. (AP/David Goldman)

In anticipation of a planned Monday night Senate vote on a bipartisan proposal to extend emergency unemployment compensation for another three months, two highly influential Tea Party-aligned organizations have announced their opposition to the bill as well as their intention to punish any Republican senator who votes in its favor.

Both the Club for Growth and Heritage Action released statements Monday afternoon on their opposition to the bill crafted by Democratic Sen. Jack Reed and Republican Sen. Dean Heller, and both made clear that the vote would be considered a "key" vote, meaning it would be included in each lawmaker's legislative scorecard. While Democratic senators are unlikely to care how these two Tea Party groups judge their voting record, Republicans in the Senate tend to shy from casting any votes that might lower their score.

In addition to marking the vote as a "key" vote, both organizations also expressed skepticism that the long-term unemployment situation in America still constituted a crisis. "After six years, an extension can no longer be called an 'emergency' with any credibility," stated the Club for Growth. Heritage Action, meanwhile, referred in its statement to "so-called emergency unemployment benefits."

However, the two groups were not indistinguishable in every regard: While Heritage Action's opposition to extending emergency unemployment compensation was categorical, the Club for Growth's statement implied a willingness to support an extension, provided it was offset by cuts elsewhere to the U.S. budget. "There is plenty of waste in the federal budget from which to find an offset," read the Club for Growth's announcement.

The Club for Growth's statement did not get into the relative merits of unemployment insurance. Heritage Action's release, on the other hand, criticized the emergency unemployment compensation system, calling it "an ineffective and wasteful program."

By Elias Isquith

Elias Isquith is a former Salon staff writer.

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