Federal unemployment insurance benefits expired last night after Congress failed to pass an extension for the upcoming year, cutting over two million people off from benefits in December alone and a predicted seven million in the next 12 months. Moreover, if the unemployment insurance benefits are not extended, 750,000 women will lose their coverage in the upcoming month and an estimated two and a half million over the course of the next year. With five people looking for work to every one open job, federal unemployment benefits were a major source of family income to millions of unemployed Americans. Jason Furman, Deputy Director of the National Economic Council, described the unemployment benefits as “one of the most effective ways to stimulate the economy.” By giving money to lower income households who will in turn spend the money, he stated that the benefits will create jobs and drive the economy forward. The soon-to-be Speaker, Republican John Boehner of Ohio, has actively opposed extending jobless benefits unless the cost of benefits is offset by other spending cuts – although he supports extending billions of dollars of Bush tax cuts to the wealthiest among Americans, without any reduction in spending offset. But according to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, increasing aid to the unemployed is at least four times more effective in stimulating the economy than extending the Bush tax cuts to wealthy Americans. Although current negotiations between Obama Administration officials and Democratic and Republican Congressional leaders are not public, news reports indicate that Republicans are insisting on extending tax breaks for wealthy individuals in exchange for extending unemployment benefits.