Republicans try to make it easier to drug test the unemployed, accidentally make it harder
One policy favored by liberals and conservatives alike is that of making people jump through as many hoops as possible to access the social safety net. In addition to saving the government money by cutting down the rolls, it’s a way to enforce lifestyle choices on the poor that they’d ideally like to enforce on all of society, the withholding of food and shelter being a powerful tool to make people do what you want. When questioned on the ethics of this, lawmakers typically say it’s for people’s own good, an especially absurd defense for those who claim to believe in limited government.
While a decent amount of this went on under Obama, the GOP has done its best to accelerate it by expanding the nanny state in ways that dovetail with its ideology. But sometimes they fuck up. Case in point: Republican lawmakers tried over the weekend to make it easier for states to implement drug testing requirements for people seeking unemployment benefits, but they might actually have made it much harder.
One stipulation of the February 2012 Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act was that states were allowed to drug test unemployed people. (The idea being, I guess, that you can’t be ready and looking for work if you’re going to fail any drug tests prospective employers may require. Not too crazy, as nanny state measures go.) Obama’s Labor Department clarified that it only applied to lines of work where drug testing was required, not ones where it was merely permitted: Aviation, trucking, law enforcement, etc.
Naturally, Republicans hated this law, because it was not nearly enough drug testing for their liking. While it might have been smart to leave this law in place and pass new laws to mandate more drug testing, GOP lawmakers got greedy and used the Congressional Review Act — which lets Congress easily overturn federal regulations — to repeal it.
In a letter meant to be read in the Congressional session where they did that, test-happy governors Scott Walker of Wisconsin, Greg Abbott of Texas, and Phil Bryant of Mississippi wrote that they wanted to drug test the unemployed so they might “help individuals suffering from substance abuse to access necessary care and treatment so they may re-enter the workforce as healthy and productive members of society.” I’m sure all those unemployed pot smokers will be grateful to the GOP for saving them from themselves.
Paul Ryan sent a smug tweet upon the law’s repeal:
Another one heads to President Trump’s desk. This legislation allows states to have drug testing to receive federal unemployment benefits. pic.twitter.com/cFnvdeQqX1
— Paul Ryan (@SpeakerRyan) March 19, 2017
But with the 2012 law permitting drug testing for certain industries gone, there are now no industries that are permitted to do it. They’d have to pass new legislation to bring it back. And that legislation must go through the regular channels, which are harder to work than the Congressional Review Act.
What that means is that unless they can get Democrats to support it (or at least refrain from filibustering it), Republican efforts to implement broad drug testing requirements for recipients of unemployment are doomed to fail, making that self-congratulatory tweet premature. “They’re so desperate to get rid of anything with Obama’s name on it, they don’t even game out the consequences,” an anonymous Democratic staffer told Politico. “What’s the line about cutting off your nose?”
May they cut off their nose many more times.