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UI, Bush tax cuts among top issues
Congress recessed in late September to campaign in the elections and is expected to come back into session in mid-November. Members of Congress will have much important work to get done when they return.
First, the federal unemployment insurance (UI) extended benefits program expires Nov. 30, and Congress must pass legislation to continue these critical benefits. Federal UI benefits are not only the right thing to do for laid-off workers and their families, but UI benefits are also one of the very best ways of stimulating the economy because displaced workers spend all their UI income, putting it right back into the local economy. UAW members are urged to call their senators and representative to tell them that Congress must continue the federal UI benefits that were first enacted in the Recovery Act in February 2009 – and should do so through 2011.
Congress must also decide what to do about the Bush tax cuts that are currently set to expire Dec. 31, 2010. Some of these tax cuts are for middle-income families, and President Obama and the Democratic leadership in Congress have pledged to continue them. But the president and leadership want to allow the tax cuts for the very wealthiest Americans to expire, and the UAW strongly supports this goal. But continuing the Bush tax cut for this top 2 percent of Americans would add $700 million to the federal deficit over the next 10 years. The UAW is advocating to allow the expiration of the tax cut for these very wealthy Americans expire, and to use the resulting tax revenues to stimulate the economy and create jobs for laid-off workers.
Finally, before closing out the 111th Congress at the end of the year, they must pass appropriations legislation to fund the federal government. The current stop-gap spending measure, known as a Continuing Resolution or “CR,” expires Dec. 3. The UAW is urging Congress to continue or increase funding for important programs such as food stamps, higher education loans and grants, public and occupational health and safety programs, legal services for the poor and job training.
Whatever the outcome of the November elections, much work will remain for the new 112th Congress that begins in January. The Commission on Fiscal Responsibility (a.k.a., “the Deficit Commission”) will issue a report soon after the election that will generate much discussion and debate next year.
One of the most important issues to be debated will be Social Security, with many conservatives – most notably Rep. John Boehner, currently House Minority Leader – proposing that the eligibility age be raised to 70. Others, led by Rep. Paul Ryan, the ranking member on the House Budget Committee, will be proposing that Medicare be replaced with a voucher system.
The UAW and the entire labor movement will be fighting these proposals, and we will need as many allies in Congress as possible.
For this reason, it is critically important that UAW members and retirees vote for candidates who support working families.
Source: UAW Legislative, Governmental and International Affairs Department