NBC Applauds Budget Deal Ending 'Harshest Spending Cuts'; Bemoans 'Crisis' of Not Extending Jobless Benefits

On Tuesday's Nightly News, after news broke of a budget deal in Congress, Capitol Hill correspondent Kelly O'Donnell announced: "...the usual Washington dysfunction is on hold tonight." She touted the agreement to anchor Brian Willams by noting: "It would also roll back some of the harshest automatic spending cuts, the sequester for the Pentagon and domestic programs." [Listen to the audio]

O'Donnell cautioned that the deal "does not extend jobless benefits for those out of work the longest..." On Wednesday's broadcast, fill-in anchor Ann Curry picked up on that point and fretted: "While the agreement avoids another government shutdown next month, it also sidestepped dealing with the crisis facing 1.3 million Americans who've been out of work for a long time. And that means their unemployment benefits will stop at the end of the month unless Congress takes action."

In the report that followed, correspondent Joe Fryer highlighted one family:

For LaShawn Daniels Palmer, a mother of four, much of her morning ritual remains the same – getting her kids up and ready for school. But these days she's supporting her family with her unemployment insurance....With her computer now broken, she hunts for work on her tiny cell phone screen. This is week twenty-eight of unemployment. She counts every week because that number has never counted more. Her benefits could soon disappear.

Fryer explained: "Up until 2009, unemployment benefits lasted twenty-six weeks. But today, because of the recession, they can go up to seventy-three weeks. But if Congress doesn't take action, they'll go back to twenty-six weeks on December 28th and 1.3 million jobless workers will lose their benefits."

He only briefly mentioned the negative impact of extending such benefits: "Some economists argue a longer stretch of benefits costs taxpayers billions and can discourage people from looking hard for jobs." A sound bite followed of University of Chicago professor Casey Mulligan: "So you get more unemployed people unemployed for a longer time as a consequence of the program."

On Monday's MSNBC Andrea Mitchell Reports, liberal Washington Post columnist Ruth Marcus ranted that Kentucky Senator Rand Paul making the same argument made him the top nominee for the "Scrooge award of the year."

Here is a full transcript of Fryer's December 11 report:

7:07PM ET

ANN CURRY: And now to the nation's capital and that budget deal we told you about last night. While the agreement avoids another government shutdown next month, it also sidestepped dealing with the crisis facing 1.3 million Americans who've been out of work for a long time. And that means their unemployment benefits will stop at the end of the month unless Congress takes action. NBC's Joe Fryer talks to some of the families who are worried about what comes next.

LASHAWN DANIELS PALMER: You want milk or just your spoon, Shawn?

JOE FRYER: For LaShawn Daniels Palmer, a mother of four, much of her morning ritual remains the same – getting her kids up and ready for school. But these days she's supporting her family with her unemployment insurance.

PALMER: And at $375 a week, it's really tough. It is really, really tough.

FRYER: With her computer now broken, she hunts for work on her tiny cell phone screen. This is week twenty-eight of unemployment. She counts every week because that number has never counted more. Her benefits could soon disappear.

PALMER: I need the benefits so that I can keep pushing forward, so that I won't need the benefits.

FRYER: Up until 2009, unemployment benefits lasted twenty-six weeks. But today, because of the recession, they can go up to seventy-three weeks. But if Congress doesn't take action, they'll go back to twenty-six weeks on December 28th and 1.3 million jobless workers will lose their benefits.

That includes Randy Russo, who, despite living in Chicago, keeps the heat low to save money.

RANDY RUSSO: I don't know what the end game is. I don't know when it would happen. But it's just that, it's hope. And if you don't have the hope, then it's truly over.

FRYER: While unemployment has gradually improved, job fairs like this continue to draw crowds, people who say they need benefits while they look for work.

But some economists argue a longer stretch of benefits costs taxpayers billions and can discourage people from looking hard for jobs.

PROFESSOR CASEY MULLIGAN [UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO]: So you get more unemployed people unemployed for a longer time as a consequence of the program.

JOE FRYER: LaShawn Daniels Palmer says she's willing to take almost any job.

PALMER: I'm not beyond working in a retail store, I'm not beyond working at McDonald's, whatever it takes so that my kids are not homeless.

JOE FRYER: She's now counting the weeks until her benefits end. Joe Fryer, NBC News, Los Angeles.

— Kyle Drennen is News Analyst at the Media Research Center. Follow Kyle Drennen on Twitter.