WASHINGTON -- Utah Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch said this week that extended unemployment insurance "is well over 100 weeks now," making him the latest millionaire member of Congress to publicly demonstrate that he does not understand the unemployment legislation he obstructs.
The jobless aid programs reauthorized late Thursday night provide up to 73 weeks of benefits for people who have exhausted 26 weeks of state benefits. The reauthorization lasts for 13 months, but that doesn't mean there are now 155 weeks of benefits. It means some unemployed will continue to be eligible for 99 weeks of benefits through next year.
Hatch joins Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) and Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), who in the past few weeks made the same mistake. HuffPost first reported that members of Congress don't understand unemployment benefits back in November. Most of them don't understand what it's like to struggle to find work, either.
Hatch played a starring role when Republicans blocked an unemployment reauthorization for nearly two months over the summer. He proposed that the jobless be drug tested. "We should not be giving cash to people who basically are just gonna blow it on drugs," Hatch said.
Republicans insisted, above all, that extended benefits be "paid for," something Democrats refused to do on principle. Republicans relented this time around because the benefits were attached to a reauthorization of (unpaid for) tax cuts for the rich.
"They're not going to pay for it," Hatch said on Fox News this week. "They know they have an advantage because nobody wants to have people suffer, or continue to suffer, and unemployment insurance is one way we alleviate that suffering."
ThinkProgress memorialized Hatch's gaffe in a YouTube video:
Even though Republicans unintentionally say they support extended benefits beyond 99 weeks so long as the cost is offset with spending cuts, there is no movement on legislation to give the "99ers" additional weeks of benefits.