Applaud U.S. Sen. Rob Portman for joining the majority in advancing legislation that would extend emergency assistance to the long-term unemployed. The Ohioan was one of five Republicans who voted yes.
Now the focus has turned to crafting a compromise, Republicans insisting that the extension include savings to offset the $6.5-billion cost. Portman wants to stop people from receiving Social Security disability insurance while also getting jobless benefits or Trade Adjustment Assistance. U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown would end a tax break for companies moving operations overseas.
What Brown rightly adds is that such savings are not necessary, or crucial to fiscal discipline. One aspect of unemployment compensation is bolstering a fragile economy. Couple the extension with spending cuts elsewhere, and Congress would dampen the positive impact.
That isn’t to say Portman and Brown have proposed ideas unworthy of pursuing. Rather, as Brown stresses, the priority must reside with acting quickly to aid those who saw their jobless benefits abruptly ended three days after Christmas. If that requires a flawed deal on spending reductions, let’s get it done.