Connor Kenny, an editor at OpenCongress, put a great piece up on the Huffington Post yesterday. It was an analysis of the nonprofit’s recent scorecard on how each senator has voted on extending unemployment benefits over the past two years. Along with discovering “a few head scratchers,” the report finds “at least one irrefutable truth”: “[Sen.] Ben Nelson [D-NE] has a whacked-out definition of ‘fiscal responsibility.'”
Kenny came to this conclusion after determining that Nelson has voted against extending benefits the last five times out of deficit concerns, but has also recently voted in favor of scraping the estate tax, which would add hundreds of billions of dollars to our debt:
Nelson…has a pretty incomprehensible stand on fiscal responsibility, voting to dramatically expand the deficit through the estate tax repeal while publicly declaring that the reason he could not support the last unemployment benefit vote was that “in my view it could jeopardize the recovery and would add to our already enormous deficit.” (It is unclear if Nelson thinks the estate tax repeal’s addition to the deficit would not “jeopardize the recovery.”)
Putting aside the fact that extending unemployment benefits is one of the most stimulative economic policies you can enact, Nelson’s claim of adhering to fiscal responsibility is untenable when comparing his stance on these two issues.
In addition, Nelson was a driving force behind removing the public insurance option from the Senate’s health care reform bill because of the “extraordinary [costs] associated with it.” The Congressional Budget Office (CBO), however, found that the public option would’ve saved “the federal government $68 billion between 2014 an 2020.”
If a member of Congress were truly concerned about debt and deficits, he may or may not support extending unemployment benefits – it could depend on how the member measured the costs and benefits of the policy. There is less room to maneuver on the public option, though, and there is literally no defense of a vote to repeal the estate tax.
I would have a hard time believing it, but let’s hope the consistently baffled senator from Nebraska, who ironically lauds himself as utilizing a “common sense approach to issues,” is more ideologically consistent in other policy areas.