WASHINGTON -- Those who wanted Congress to reauthorize extended unemployment insurance this summer often assumed that Democrats who opposed the benefits were just posing as deficit hawks to impress voters during an election year.
If that was their intention, it didn't work. Of the 11 Democrats who opposed reauthorizing benefits at the beginning of July, eight are goners. Reps. Brian Baird (Wash.) and Marion Berry (Ark.) retired, leaving their seats to the GOP; six others went down in Tuesday's epic wipeout.
Sixteen Democrats joined Republicans in blocking extended jobless aid in a suspension vote the previous day. Thirteen of them will not be back next year, including Reps. Frank Kratovil (Md.), Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (S.D.), John Adler (N.J.), Travis Childers (Miss.), and probably Melissa Bean (Ill.), who flipped their positions from one vote to the next. Those five lost Tuesday or are in imminent danger of losing.
Alex Pareene at Salon savors the moment: "These brave politicians bucked their free-spending, ultra-liberal party, and cast votes in favor of fiscal responsibility. And for their willingness to oppose Barack Obama's liberal agenda, nearly all of them were rewarded with early (and ironic) retirement from public service."
In May, 34 House Democrats joined the GOP in opposing the extended benefits (it took nearly two months before the impasse finally ended). Seventeen of them have been defeated, while results are still out for Reps. Bean, Gerry Connolly (Va.), Jerry McNerney (Calif.), and Gabrielle Giffords (Ariz.). Thirteen Democrats who opposed jobless aid in May retained their seats.
"I've been saying for two years that politicians ignore the pressing needs of the unemployed at their own peril," said Judy Conti, a lobbyist for the National Employment Law Project. "This is an angry and increasingly organized group of people, and no matter how concerned the average person is about deficit spending, the vast majority understand that we cannot abandon the unemployed over misguided notions of how to reduce the deficit."
Reps Jim Cooper (Tenn.), Mike McIntyre (N.C.), and Heath Shuler (N.C.) voted against reauthorizing the benefits in July and won reelection on Tuesday.
Everybody will get another chance to vote on reauthorizing extended unemployment benefits when Congress reconvenes on Nov. 15 for its lame duck session. If the benefits are not reauthorized by the end of the month, NELP estimates that two million people will prematurely stop receiving aid by the end of the year.
"I hope that all members will step up and support an extension of unemployment benefits so that no one will suffer during the holiday season," said Rep. Jim McDermott (D-Wash.), sponsor of the bill to reauthorize benefits this summer, in a statement to HuffPost.