Speaking Tuesday on MSNBC’s "Daily Rundown," Yarmuth was asked if the
parties would be able to move on from the pre-Christmas gridlock
surrounding the issue.
“I’m very confident we will be exactly in that place 60 days from now,” he sad. “This is a fundamental debate that’s been going on for all of 2011 and it will continue through the next election for sure. Right now I’m not sure there’s much common ground at all if Republicans are totally unwilling to ask for more revenue to help pay for these very, very important programs.”
While both parties agree the payroll tax should be extended for all of 2012, the bill passed last week only extends it through February to give the sides more time to come to an agreement on how to pay for it.
Yarmuth said that beyond the revenue-versus-spending debate, the two sides are far apart on how they view those who rely on government safety net programs.
“What Republicans continuously want to do is characterize all of the beneficiaries of government programs as undeserving, slacker 19-year-olds,” he said. “When in fact in today’s world they’re teachers, firefighters, police and steel workers. These are people who through no fault of their own have fallen into this economic downturn. So those things are going to be debated as well, and they’re very important components of this debate.”
Some Republicans want unemployment insurance beneficiaries to be required to return to school, or to be drug-tested before receiving benefits.
On Sunday, Rep. Chris Van Hollen (Md.), the ranking Democrat on the House Budget Committee, blasted the idea of drug-testing, calling it “insulting” to out-of-work Americans.
“People are not out of work because they have substance-abuse problems,” he said. “People are out of work because there are four people looking for every job that’s available in America.”