Prospects worsen for Senate passage of unemployment benefits
January 8th, 2014
05:11 PM ET
10 months ago

Prospects worsen for Senate passage of unemployment benefits

(CNN) - The prospects for passing an extension of benefits for the long-term unemployed got significantly worse Wednesday after two Republican senators who voted with Democrats earlier this week said they will pull their much-needed support unless Democrats come up with a way to pay for the $6.4 billion bill.

Without the votes of Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio and Sen. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, who voted on Tuesday to begin debate on the bill, Democrats won’t be able to get over a 60 vote threshold needed to break a GOP filibuster and end debate on the measure, which would extend the benefits for the next three months.

Democrats, meanwhile, appeared to be hardening their position. Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-New York, who had been working with Democrats and Republicans to see if they could find offsets acceptable to both parties, issued a statement saying a deal was unlikely.

“I don’t think there’s much enthusiasm for a three-month offset deal on our side,” Schumer said.

The White House and congressional Democrats said the legislation was a top priority but Republicans accused them of sabotaging their own bill – by refusing to come up with a compromise offset - in order to have a political issue they could use to attack Republicans in the 2014 mid-term elections.

“I will not vote to end debate without offsets,” Ayotte said at a Capitol news conference where she, Portman, and other Republicans, were unveiling a plan to pay for benefit extension by getting rid of a child tax credit improperly claimed by some immigrants who are in the U.S. illegally.

Previously, Ayotte had only said she “likely” would oppose ending debate, leaving her room to still support the bill if offsets weren’t agreed to.

Portman was also firm. He said he was assured by Democrats that amendments related to offsets and reforms to the unemployment programs would be allowed and was concerned Democrats now were balking at proposals Republicans were offering.

“If I know that it’s going to be paid for and we’ll then engage in a process of reform, then I’d be able to support it,” said Portman. “But if not, I won’t be able to.”

For years, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has been luke warm about offsets for long-term unemployment benefits. He’s argued they amount to emergency spending. However, on Tuesday he did open the door to considering them if Republicans had “reasonable” proposals.

Since then senators from both parties say there have been some private discussions about finding a path forward but little progress had been made. President Barack Obama called a handful of Republicans including Sen. Susan Collins of Maine who spoke to him Monday. Collins said the President was more interested in discussing her ideas for reforming unemployment programs than whether or how to pay for them.

“If Republicans are so interested in paying for this measure, they should propose a reasonable way to do so. That doesn’t attack the Affordable Care Act or punish American children, as these two proposals they presented yesterday do,” Reid said on the floor Wednesday. “They should propose an offset that might actually pass. Instead they propose a string of political amendments each more doomed to failure than the last one they offered.”

Asked how serious he thinks Democrats are in finding offsets, Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, the second-ranking Republican leader, said he was “skeptical” and said if Democrats wouldn’t agree to offsets “the outcome looks pretty dismal.”

Most of the other Republicans who voted to take up the bill – including Collins, Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, and Sen. Dan Coats of Indiana – say they want offsets but haven’t demanded them as a pre-condition for moving forward.

“I have not drawn a line in the sand about what I’m ultimately going to do on this this bill because my focus is to get it offset and that’s what I think is entirely reasonable and should happen. The bill will pass overwhelmingly if it is offset,” Collins said.

Portman said he wants to find a way to approve the benefits and has a number of ideas he wants the Senate to debate.

He said Democrats were caught off guard when six Republicans voted with them to take up the bill.

“I think they had hoped, frankly, some of them, from a political point of view, that they could say Republicans were obstructing,” Portman said. “I think we kind of took them by surprise and instead we’re saying we absolutely don’t want to obstruct.”


Filed under: Senate • unemployment
soundoff (57 Responses)
  1. Edoggy

    Here we go again with the GOP playing political games with the long term unemployed. When will the bs stop. Vote them out in 2014!

    January 8, 2014 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
  2. Jules

    Cut the oil subsidies you fools. Take it out of there. They made record profits last year and still they get subsidies.

    January 8, 2014 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  3. don in albuquerque

    You want an offset? Cut military spending by 1/3. The unemployed will thank you, and so will the rest of the world.

    January 8, 2014 05:35 pm at 5:35 pm |
  4. tax payer

    God forbid any of these politicians become unemployed

    January 8, 2014 05:36 pm at 5:36 pm |
  5. Randy Coggan

    Maybe if all the politicians on the hill had their salary ended they might support extending the benefits!

    January 8, 2014 05:47 pm at 5:47 pm |
  6. RdJ

    Might I suggest if the GOP wants offsets to close the tax loophole that allows tax free shelters offshore like those of the Cayman Islands ? That would pay for a lot of unemployment insurance benefits.

    January 8, 2014 05:51 pm at 5:51 pm |
  7. Smitty

    Either extend or help them find work. But for Petes sake do SOMETHING !!!

    January 8, 2014 05:53 pm at 5:53 pm |
  8. smith

    I think if we extend the long term unemployment benefits the people that use them should have to do 8 hrs. a week of community service.

    January 8, 2014 05:57 pm at 5:57 pm |
  9. Blinded by the republican lie

    Easy..Close tax loopholes to oil companies...Problem solved!!

    January 8, 2014 05:57 pm at 5:57 pm |
  10. Nameshari capaccio

    I need my unemployment to gas in my car to go and get that job I need and want more than anything to pay my bills and eat please do the right thing im trying to do the right thing I am a human being not a number have a heart and contious we need help we are the people

    January 8, 2014 05:59 pm at 5:59 pm |
  11. Randy, San Francisco

    How about cutting tax subsidies and tax breaks for oil companies and businesses hiding off shore assets and money to pay for the continuation of unemployment benefits?

    January 8, 2014 06:00 pm at 6:00 pm |
  12. No hope

    How about government take a cut in pay & only two weeks vacation a year instead of 3 months.

    January 8, 2014 06:01 pm at 6:01 pm |
  13. bill

    want to cut expenses on this??? this is not about entitlements but too many think it is.
    1. take and pass a drug test
    2. go to office and sign in.
    3. be assigned jobs to do to get this money

    this would cut it in half the first month--entitlements are like giving a son everything he wants and then expect him to have a goal to be successful. What is wrong with making someone at least partly earn what they are paid???

    January 8, 2014 06:02 pm at 6:02 pm |
  14. Lakehead

    No, Republicans will make any counter off so unpalatable Democrats will not be able to agree. Here we simply have more of the same. Instead of doing what is right, both sides play political games with real people's lives.

    January 8, 2014 06:20 pm at 6:20 pm |
  15. budsview

    after six years, this is no longer an emergency. after not working these people should apply for welfare to pay the bills.

    how can you posters talk about politics when thats exactly what the dems are playing. and all of you who want to end those subsidies, go for it, but end them all. dont just hit the oil companies, hit those green jobs programs, end the handouts to companies like solendra and fisker. just about every industry out there is getting some kind of handout, so yah, lets end them all

    January 8, 2014 06:21 pm at 6:21 pm |
  16. Community service? Really? Hahahahahaha

    8 hrs of community service?!?! What......are the unemployed criminals now? I put in to unemployment for 30+ years and now I need these benefits since becoming unemployed. Not all unemployed are worthless slugs, and not making an attempt to find work. There are some, but many, like myself, apply daily to numerous jobs and hear nothing. Personally, I have applied to over 300 jobs since June and have not got a single response back.......not even from the jobs I applied that I am over qualified for. If you asked the unemployed if they wanted their old job back, most would say hell yes! I along with most unemployed do not like collecting unemployment benefits. It really hits your pride hard. But I will be damned, after all of the years of working for my state, that I would turn them down. We need this to survive. If you want to make the ones, who have been collecting EUC for years and never have attempted to find a job, do community service every week, go for it. Just quit assuming all unemployed are worthless leeches, slugs or whatever blood sucking vermin you think we all are.

    January 8, 2014 06:26 pm at 6:26 pm |
  17. shield

    Guess I should become a politician to not worry about the forever salary they get

    January 8, 2014 06:38 pm at 6:38 pm |
  18. Evergreen

    Combination cuts to oil subsidies, Farm subsidies and foreign aid...oh and pass a jobs bill. Lets help our workers get back to work.

    January 8, 2014 06:51 pm at 6:51 pm |
  19. wms

    Republican should be worry with election coming there way!!! They are leaving the same people that put them in power in the dark there is lots of families that wont have food to eat including kids!!! But this is what our good GOP is doing to all of us!!! What a shame worrying so much about politics and not thinking of the people that will softer including my but is ok they all have good paying JOBS thanks to US the voters...... god bless America.

    January 8, 2014 06:55 pm at 6:55 pm |
  20. fromearthtoyouandhandmade

    The government should all be unemployed and let the unemployed take those positions. Then we'll see how much they will say non of us are looking for work and just taking the hand-out. I sure would rather have a job then 122$ a week.

    January 8, 2014 06:57 pm at 6:57 pm |
  21. Wes

    I feel sorry for all that have lost jobs since obama took office, but what happens after three months? Extend it again? It seems to never end. Time for the unemployed to think outside the box-I lost my job in 2009 and have started my own business. You can't just sit and hope! Be proactive!!

    January 8, 2014 07:16 pm at 7:16 pm |
  22. Joan

    The $24-$26 billions lost during the government shutdown would have paid for this program for almost a year. How are the Republicans going to repay that $24 billion? Haven't heard how they are going to do that or does it go on the deficit?

    January 8, 2014 07:17 pm at 7:17 pm |
  23. Bigwilliestyles

    6 billion huh? How much did the taxpayers (including the unemployed) shell out for the Troubled Asset Relief Program and other "bailouts" for companies and people that should have been concerned with "bail money"? 1 trillion? 2? What a sham.

    January 8, 2014 07:24 pm at 7:24 pm |
  24. stutzman

    Well in typical fashion thes politicians are not there when people need them, lets be sure an return the favor to them when they are out pandering for votes.

    January 8, 2014 07:24 pm at 7:24 pm |
  25. abner

    All the trillions of dollars we send to 3rd world countries to help them out but we are unwilling to help our own. You should all be fired with no pension or bennies. I'm not unemployed but have been a few times in my life. Politicians are a pathetic disgrace to the human race

    January 8, 2014 07:37 pm at 7:37 pm |
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