The Senate voted 59 to 39 Wednesday to restore emergency jobless benefits to millions of people who have been out of work for more than six months.
The bill would authorize states to provide retroactive support to an estimated 2.5 million people whose unemployment checks have been cut off since federal benefits expired June 2. It would also make available up to 99 weeks of income support through the end of November to millions more who have exhausted state benefits, which typically last for 26 weeks. Advocates for the unemployed say it could be several weeks in some states before the checks are in the mail.
The vote comes after a months-long battle over whether to pay for the $34 billion measure or add that sum to the nation’s mounting national debt. Both parties have agreed in the past not to pay for emergency jobless benefits during periods of high unemployment, in part because cutting spending or raising taxes to cover the cost could depress economic activity.
In the end, two Republicans — Sens. Olympia J. Snowe and Susan Collins, both of Maine — voted with a virtually united Democratic caucus to extend jobless benefits without paying for them. One Democrat, Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska, voted no.
The measure now goes to the House, which has already approved an extension of jobless benefits but must vote again for procedural reasons.
But the recent recession, coupled with public spending to revive the economy, has pushed government debt loads here and abroad into dangerous territory, sparking a crisis in Europe and heightening public anxiety in the United States.
Republicans have been playing to those fears in hopes of regaining control of Congress in this fall’s midterm elections. With unemployment at 9.5 percent, they agreed that jobless benefits should be extended but said the cost should be covered with unexpended funds from last year’s economic stimulus package.
Democrats have accused the GOP of playing politics with the lives of millions of unemployed workers, noting that Republicans want to extend tax cuts for high-earners that would add nearly 20 times as much to the nation’s debt over the next decade.
So, these are the politicians who will regain the majority in the house this November? I have to wonder what kind of world we live in that will accept these clowns as the arbiters of fairness and compassion?
Senate Republicans are holding up final passage of a bill to reauthorize extended unemployment benefits after Democrats broke the GOP filibuster on Tuesday.
Republicans have decided they’d like to gobble up the 30 hours of debate allowed after a cloture motion won supermajority support, and have introduced a series of motions, including one to repeal the estate tax and others to offset the cost of the unemployment benefits. A Democratic aide told HuffPost the motions would not delay the final vote, which is expected at 9 p.m. on Wednesday evening.
Extended jobless aid for people out of work for longer than six months lapsed at the end of May as Republicans and conservative Democrats in the Senate, especially Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), blocked the bill over its $33 billion deficit impact. Since the extended benefits lapsed, Labor Department data show that 2.5 million have prematurely stopped receiving checks.
“Republican obstruction has already cost 2.5 million Americans essential aid they need to pay their rent, put food on the table, and take care of their kids,” said White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs in a statement. “By the end of this week, roughly 350,000 more Americans could be added to that number. The livelihoods of nearly 3 million Americans shouldn’t hinge on partisan game playing in Washington. This latest move gives the partisan minority thirty more hours to stall in the Senate, but that means thirty more hours of suffering for these hardworking families trying to get by.” Continue reading…
Senate Finally Breaks Filibuster, Approves Aid For 2.5 Million Unemployed Americans
As I said earlier, when Obama stopped chasing “bi-partisan windmills” and told the American public what the GOP was doing to our unemployed, the GOP did an about face, rather than appear as they really are, stingy, rich, old fogies who have no clue outside of their elite DC bubble!
Kudos to President Obama and to Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL).
The Senate voted 60-40 on Tuesday to move forward with reauthorizing unemployment benefits for the long-term jobless, 2.5 million of whom have missed checks since the end of May as Republicans and conservative Democrats filibustered several bills to renew the aid. After a final Senate vote, the bill goes to the House, which will vote on Wednesday.
“It shouldn’t take a supermajority to help families afford the bare necessities while unemployment is rising,” said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) after the vote. “It shouldn’t take the slimmest of margins to do what is right.”
Defeating the filibuster clears an easy path toward the president’s desk this week. People who missed checks will be paid retroactively; people who exhausted all weeks of benefits available before the lapse will not get anything.
The great debate pitting deficit reduction against jobless aid is over — until November, when it is certain to return. White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said Monday that the president will push for an additional extension of benefits when the current one expires shortly after the midterm congressional elections.
“I think it is fair and safe to assume that we are not going to wake up and find ourselves at the end of November at a rate of employment one would not consider to be an emergency,” Gibbs said, in one of the most affirmative statements from Democrats about their plans for the next lapse in benefits.
Historically, Congress has never allowed federally-funded extended benefits to lapse when the national unemployment rate has been above 7.2 percent. The current rate is 9.5 percent, and few projections show it coming down any time soon. Continue reading…
Senate Democrats are doubling down on the argument that Republicans refuse to reauthorize extended unemployment benefits because they want a better November through a worse economy.
“There’s only one kind of job Republicans care about saving or creating: their own,” said Jim Manley, spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) in a statement. “To advance their political prospects, Republicans are pushing a job-killing agenda that America can’t afford: protecting tax breaks for CEOs who ship jobs overseas, while blocking tax cuts for small businesses and middle-class families. ”
Jobless aid for the long-term unemployed lapsed at the beginning of June as Republicans and some Democrats, citing deficit concerns, have blocked votes on domestic aid bills for the past month. More than 2.1 million people and counting have prematurely stopped receiving benefits.
“Democrats have run into nothing but a solid wall of Republican opposition at every turn,” Manley said, “even for common-sense measures like providing a safety net for Americans while they look for work, cutting taxes for small businesses and closing loopholes for CEOs that ship jobs overseas.”
One of the bricks in that GOP wall is Nebraska Democrat Ben Nelson, who has steadfastly refused to support any spending that adds a dime to the deficit. After three attempts to move a bill that included aid to states and tax breaks for businesses (and tax increases for rich investment fund managers), Democrats eventually brought a standalone unemployment reauthorization — it failed by one vote. Reid has said that Democrats will have the 60 votes they need on Tuesday, after a replacement for the late Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) has been sworn in. If the benefits are approved, people who prematurely missed checks will be paid retroactively (people who already exhausted all weeks of benefits available before the lapse will get nothing).
“Curious as to what our ‘job-killing agenda’ is,” said Don Stewart, a spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). “Is it the tax hikes on small businesses, or the mandates on job creators, or the trillions in new debt? Or maybe it’s the economic policies that 86 percent of Americans say has HURT them or had no effect. Oh wait, that’s what we’ve been working against.”
Economist Mark Zandi, a former adviser to Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), has said failing to reauthorize unemployment benefits would in fact endanger the economic recovery, and that Congress should not offset the cost of the benefits because doing so would diminish their stimulative effect. “The odds that the economy will slip back into the recession are still well below even,” Zandi said. “But if Congress is unable to provide this help, those odds will rise and become uncomfortably high.”
“It’s a strategy meant more to increase their size in the Senate than it is to create the number of jobs necessary for our families,” said Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) on Wednesday.
“If they can stop the recovery from occurring, if they can create as much pain as possible, the cynical view is people will be angry and either drop out and not vote at all or vote against those in the majority,” said Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) in June.
So is this is how our country treat the working class now?
The GOP in congress should pay for this dearly at the mid-term elections.
Why won’t Congress reauthorize unemployment benefits for people who’ve been out of work for longer than six months?
For the past several weeks, Republicans in the Senate, with an assist from Nebraska Democrat Ben Nelson, filibustered bills to reauthorize the benefits due to concerns about adding the cost of the aid to the deficit. Beneath the deficit concerns, however, there’s something else: the suspicion that the long-term unemployed are a bunch of lazy drug addicts.
It’s not an opinion openly shared by most members of Congress, but a handful of senators and representatives from both parties have said this year that they suspect extended unemployment benefits actually discourage people from looking for work.
It started in March with Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), who said unemployment insurance “doesn’t create new jobs. In fact, if anything, continuing to pay people unemployment compensation is a disincentive for them to seek new work.”
In May, Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) said extended benefits undermine the economic recovery because they “basically keep an economy that encourages people to, rather than go out and look for work, to stay on unemployment.” And Rep. Jason Altmire (D-Pa.), after pushing party leaders to trim a domestic aid bill, said that in light of four months of job growth, “At some point you have to take a step back and look at the relative value of unemployment benefits versus people looking for jobs.”
Altmire said business owners in his district (he declined to say which ones) complained of hiring trouble because potential workers would rather stay on the dole. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said the same thing when she neatly juxtaposed suspicion of the unemployed and deficit worries in a June comment off the Senate floor. Deficit hawks want the extended benefits, which until 36 days ago gave the unemployed an unprecedented 99 weeks of checks in some states, to be “paid for” instead of passed as emergency spending and adding the cost to the deficit.
Feinstein said that while extended benefits during times of recession have never been paid for, “unemployment insurance has never carried the heavy weight that it does right now, the cost that it does right now, so people are concerned. And there isn’t a lot of documentation on this. Last night for the first time I had somebody from a company tell me they’ve offered jobs to individuals and they said well, I want to not come back to work until my unemployment insurance runs out. So we need to start looking at these things. And we need to start paying for it.”