* The Senate vote on extending unemployment benefits has been postponed until 10 a.m. tomorrow, because 17 senators are absent. It’s looking iffy. Senators Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski are reportedly Yes votes, bringing the total of GOP Senators now supporting the extension to…all of three, with co-sponsor Dean Heller included.
Presuming all Dem-aligned Senators vote Yes — which is likely but not certain — that means Dems need two more Republicans. Mark Kirk of Illinois, who was thought to be gettable because the unemployment rate there is 8.7 percent, is a No, citing a desire for it to be paid for by spending cuts elsewhere.
* Here’s a race to watch: Kelly Westlund, the populist Dem candidate against GOP Rep. Sean Duffy of Wisconsin, blasted out an email to the list of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, which is organizing for an unemployment extension, touting her own family’s experience in receiving UI. This nugget jumps out:
“I know that when that check comes in, families use it to buy groceries and pay utility bills and put gas in the car. Those dollars get immediately reinvested in our communities.”
Running on Keynesianism! Keep an eye on Wisconsin’s Seventh.
* Janet Yellen is confirmed as the first female Fed chair, and now the hard part starts, notably the question of whether the Fed is easing its support for the recovery too quickly in response to right wing criticism.
* Arit John has a good overview of Obamacare “horror stories” that have been challenged and/or debunked, and the lessons that those covering the law’s rollout should glean from them. One of them: “Stop ignoring Medicaid.” Seriously. The Medicaid expansion is a critical component of the law’s efforts to cover more people.
* Sarah Kliff on the latest evidence of a slowdown in health care costs, though it looks like the recession hangover played a larger role than Obamacare, whose impact was “minimal,” though this is obviously still very good news.
* See Noam Levey for a slightly different take on the slowdown in costs, which experts attribute to “fundamental changes being made to the health care system.”
* Also see Jonathan Cohn, who reports that the incentives in the law are obviously having a “major effect,” but it’s still unclear what’s really causing the slowdown beyond the economic crisis.
* The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has a very comprehensive look at how various metrics show progress under the War on Poverty, which is being attacked by Republicans looking to cast doubt on the current Dem push to prioritize combatting inequality.
* Kevin Drum with an important reminder:
It’s probably not possible to eliminate poverty, or even to get it down to 5 percent or so. But we could do more if we wanted. We could make Medicaid more generous. We could raise the minimum wage and the EITC. We could, at an absolute minimum, decide not to cut food stamps. We could do all these things. All we need is a bit of empathy for the worst off among us and the will to do something about it.
* And Brad Plumer with a deep, informative dive into one of the most deeply puzzling conundrums ever to bedevil the human mind: “It’s horribly cold outside. The planet’s still warming. Strange but true.”