Last week, it seemed Washington would pass an unemployment extension for 2012 that would last two months (January and February 2012) until Congress can strike a longer-term deal next year.
The Senate passed the two-month extension and President Barack Obama's administration indicated it would approve it.
The Republican-dominated House, however, rejected the two-month extension bill in a 229-193 vote on Tuesday. The majority of House Republicans voted for the rejection while a small fraction of House Republicans and all of the House Democrats voted against the rejection.
While Democrats are casting this as an irresponsible and unconscionable act on the part of House Republicans, the latter claim they want a more long-term solution.
House Republican Leader John Boehner stated that Congress must do its work before taking vacation, invoking the words of President Obama.
As such, he wants Senators, who have already left for the holidays, to come back and work through the holidays to get the deal done before 2012.
Boehner said the two-month deal passed by the Senate, which also includes a measure to extend a payrolls tax holiday, could create substantial problems, confusion and costs affecting a significant percentage of U.S. employers and employees, citing a letter from the National Payroll Reporting Consortium.
Back in November, a leading Democrat in the Senate, Tom Harkin, promised no Christmas for Congress unless there is an extension of unemployment insurance.
Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid, however, indicated Tuesday that he will not negotiate with the House unless it approves the two-month extension.
If no extension is passed for 2012, millions of Americans would lose their unemployment benefit checks, which average about $300 per week.
In January 2012, about 2 million Americans would lose their unemployment benefits if no extension is passed, according to the National Employment Law Project (NELP). For the remainder of 2012, about four million additional Americans would lose their benefits.
While a two-month deal is not ideal, time is running out to protect the unemployed from being victims of the worst partisan games Congress has ever seen, stated the NELP, which supports the Senate-passed two-month extension.