Prospects worsen for Senate passage of unemployment benefits
January 8th, 2014
05:11 PM ET
7 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. Hank

    I wouldn't call prudence obstructionism. We can't stay in this emergency crisis mode indefinitely and just keep throwing more money at it without balancing things out. I crack up when I hear people say we need to have 100% single payor coverage like Norway does. If we were even 1/10 of the economically strong country that Norway is that plea might hold water. They havet have a mighty nice surplus, free higher education well funded pension system, strong ethics, wise and profitable state owned natural resource exportation and domestic distribution, and relatively modest military budget. Norway rocks, indeed. They have their act together. We don't. We are the war and and welfare nation. A social security pension insurance fund with a very low balance, exhorbitant higher ed costs, a social security pension trust fund at dangerously low levels, manipulation of our energy, a total lack of strong ethics (corruption is rampant) a hugely expensive military operation and benefits system, and a huge national defiicit. So yep I chuckle when I hear clueless people always trying to get America to be the same model nation as other nations that are far wiser than we are. When are we going to face the music and pull ourselves up again? When are we going to shine again? When are all the liberal spend crazy folks that are keeping us in emergency crisis mode going to do more than just say, throw money at it and it will just go away? We ought to really be ashamed of what we are becoming. We ought to look at nations like Norway and learn from what they are doing right. But we have too much arrogance in America. Too many egomaniacs that don't think they need to learn from others or seek out advice and direction. They are full of contempt and misguided ideals, they have no abiilty to get a grip on reality and find true solutions. NO wonder the number of people who have declared themselves totaly independents is at an all time high. What truly wise and balanced person wants to be aligned with the two party system ruining our country?

    January 8, 2014 07:40 pm at 7:40 pm |
  2. deano

    Its a mad world when the DEMS feel fine with passing bills and spending $$$ that is NOT paid for...amazing...OUST all blue dems in red states

    January 8, 2014 07:47 pm at 7:47 pm |
  3. ni2sense

    The unemployed who don't have jobs- want to work. The politicians who have jobs- don't want to work.. Let's trade the first group with the second group! That should make everyone happy

    January 8, 2014 08:00 pm at 8:00 pm |
  4. Jaime

    An idea to help with the funding shortage:

    a 10% cut in all Senators and Congress reps salary, travel and office funding. I bet that would help some and for a change let the lawmakers feel what they are doing to everyone else. So where does congress come in on sharing the pain??

    this game playing with the daily lives of Americans economic realities needs to be suffered also by those who make the laws.

    January 8, 2014 08:08 pm at 8:08 pm |
  5. willy

    You want STABILITY NOT EQUALITY. If a janitor is worth $10k a year, his supervisor $30k a year and say a department head at $60K, With no change in responsibility, training or education.these positions are based upon that difference. Now lets say each employee or they could be retired get a cost of living increase of 2% per year for say ten years. The positions now look like this janitor $12,189.94, supervisor $36,569.83, department head $73,139.67. Now how can that be justified? Instead use a actual cost of living based upon reality and establish that amount as a flat across the board adjustment.

    January 8, 2014 08:20 pm at 8:20 pm |
  6. charles hurst author

    Barry's statement that people don't want an unemployment check was valid thirty years ago for most.
    Today we have a culture of immorality and apathy. We have an entire youth that wishes to be catered to. That cannot grasp that life sometimes isn't fair and sometimes hard. I lived through Reaganomics with no skills. I always had a job.There are always temp companies and in the worst economies I could find some type of work–in about a day.
    And sometimes people may lose their house. And have to downgrade. Does anyone remember the white collar "new poor" of the 1980s with downsizing in corporations?They survived and many came back in the late nineties. Because back then we realized we had no choice. Today we have a young generation that wish to live at home until they are thirty. They will take any free entitlement to keep them in beer their Xbox and shoes. They do not wish to excel. Not all of them but a lot of them. That is the difference–there was not a lot of them in my younger days.
    Do you think this is going to fix the economy? When it finally collapses the unemployment check won't be an issue any longer. Because we will have completed digging our grave to the end of our economic structure. We may come back years later, but not before we will have seen the greatest suffering since the Great Depression.And many will not survive as they don't have the sand of our ancestors. And maybe that's what has to happen. To relearn that self reliance is the greatest attribute to freedom.

    Or we will learn to say the word comrade.

    Charles Hurst. Author of THE SECOND FALL. An offbeat story of Armageddon. And creator of THE RUNNINGWOLF EZINE

    January 8, 2014 08:21 pm at 8:21 pm |
  7. RonL

    This should not be a surprise to ANYONE. Many Republicans believe those that are unemployed long term are either LAZY or STUPID. They try to cover their deny of this extension because "it is not paid for". They never seem to have this problem when it comes to POURING money into planes, helicopters, and bombs the military may never use. They don't have a problem giving tax breaks to HUGE farmers and farm land owners (that don't even work the land. It is pathetic. I don't really won't the Democrats to have super majorities in both houses of congress but lately the Republicans have been complete JERKS. The are anti government UNTIL a women gets pregnant, then they are all into her business. They are anti- government assistance but they are against a raising a minimum wage that would get people off that same assistance!! Democrats and independents you ALL need to vote about 20 Republicans out of the house and two more out of the Senate. MAYBE then, after losing the Presidency in 2014 and some positions in the Congress in 2016 they will LEARN if you are going to say NO you need to come up with a sound reasonable alternative. It reminds me of a very old saying, if you aren't part of the solution, you are a part of the problem.

    January 8, 2014 08:32 pm at 8:32 pm |
  8. Maggie

    They should all be recalled and fired! This is pathetic. Obviously, they don't care whether people eat or not or have a roof over their head. I'm really not sure who to blame anymore....it is growing so tiring that this country can't work together and achieve the greatness it had in the past.

    January 8, 2014 09:23 pm at 9:23 pm |
  9. DeniseName

    Borrow it back from Afghanistan or Iraq , they have it , that's where our money is !!

    January 8, 2014 09:31 pm at 9:31 pm |
  10. newsreader

    Let the congress and senate give back only the last 10 years of their very generous pay increases. And stop giving extra big bucks to them selves every year. This would show that they are more than the do nothing greedy bast–ds we know they are. If you love our country that has made you rich then it's pay back time. Doing the job you were hired to do would be a nice change.

    January 8, 2014 10:15 pm at 10:15 pm |
  11. Cate from Lancaster

    Lancaster Ohio just laid off 300 people this past Saturday from our major business that keeps this town going. Please Mr. Portman we need help in your state.

    January 8, 2014 10:24 pm at 10:24 pm |
  12. time's up!

    If we had a President who focused on jobs as much as he TALKS about focusing on jobs, we wouldn't be having this conversation!
    It IS hard to believe that not a single job has been available to people who have been out of work for TWO years...just saying! I'm guessing many people feel they can sit home and collect unemployment or go and work for not much more. There has to come a time when people take responsibility and action! There aren't many who wake up just loving going to work.

    January 8, 2014 10:37 pm at 10:37 pm |
  13. apetra

    Why are Democrats so gung-ho to renew the George W. Bush extension of unemployment compensation?

    I'd think Democrats would want to break from the Bush plan and his agenda.

    Republicans are certainly taking a hard turn from the Bush/Obama policies.

    January 8, 2014 10:40 pm at 10:40 pm |
  14. JumpedTheFence

    EUC does not need to be offset by budget cuts elsewhere as long as we're sending even one dime overseas for "humanitarian" assistance. EUC is domestic humanitarian aid. Termination of EUC should be offset by job creation. You don't futz up the economy and then cut off the lifeline for those struggling under that economy. I'm a US army veteran. Do I have to move to Ecuador or Afghanistan in order to get assistance from my own government?

    January 8, 2014 10:50 pm at 10:50 pm |
  15. Name jk. Sfl. GOP CRUZ lee&rubio 24billion dallar LOSS of your tax money conservatives,the garbage of America.

    Don't worry, we are going to destroy the GOP in the midterms and the 2016 presidential election. Just go out and vote AGAINEST the incompetent and useless GOP . Think about it , the 1% GOP AGAINEST the 99% of US. They have NO chance of keeping the house dispite their gerrimandering and vote rigging!!!!!!

    January 8, 2014 10:55 pm at 10:55 pm |
  16. S. B. Stein

    I would say that we can cut spending to those GOP House districts for those that won't support the 3 month extension. Maybe that should go for the Senate as well.

    January 8, 2014 10:56 pm at 10:56 pm |
  17. Tax Payer

    How about taking the 24 million lost when the GOP shut down the government and reimburse money to pay for unemployment. How about knocking all the loop holes to these corporations and how about giving up Congressmen benefits and cut their salary! Stop playing with people lives...we are human beings not pawns on a chessboard!

    January 8, 2014 11:06 pm at 11:06 pm |
  18. TomInMass

    If the GOP had an alternative approach such as a subsidized retraining program like the old CETA Program that prepared these folks to return to productive careers. I could understand them wanting some other path. But for god's sake, don't just cast these people off the economy as though they did something wrong. I also think it's about time we called this business of allowing companies to refuse consideration to people with 6 months or more, exactly what it is.... DISCRIMINATION!

    January 8, 2014 11:17 pm at 11:17 pm |
  19. Jones

    Sorry for typos above: I am one of the 1.8 million I have worked hard since I was 17 I have 3 College degrees and had amazing careers then 2008 happened as well as cancer which I beat it! Corporate restructuring and now I’m here 9 months into extenes EDD it sucks I apply to 20-30 jobs per day there are just no jobs. How dare our Government not make some major moves to take care of us when we need them most. I’ve even applied at target an almost 6 figure salary down to $450 a week I can barely feed myself and have yet to pay Jan rent because of this foolishness.

    January 8, 2014 11:25 pm at 11:25 pm |
  20. Name fed up

    No guys.let them shoot themselves in the other foot

    January 9, 2014 12:08 am at 12:08 am |
  21. Winston Smith

    Remember this at the place where you vote. Next time it could be you standing in line for some money to buy food, or keep the roof over your head from being confiscated.

    January 9, 2014 01:00 am at 1:00 am |
  22. Name Uche Agonsi

    If the GOPers want offsets, let them come with the ones they desire, but not obviously any thing that would hurt the poor and middle class Americans. Also, where they think these people should work to earn their living, let them show where the job is, including jobs for the incapacitated.......its becoming unbearably worrisome to listen to these GOPers come up with their wishes without solutions, especially solutions that are not harmful to the poor and middle class Americans. And to compound it all these same poor and middle class people still vote for them.....and complain later.

    January 9, 2014 01:26 am at 1:26 am |
  23. Know Your Subject

    While this situation is generally disheartening, it is still amusing to watch Harry Reid squirm over the prospect that the unemployment benefits extension might actually pass.

    January 9, 2014 01:26 am at 1:26 am |
  24. Cynthia W

    Pharoah let my people go!

    January 9, 2014 01:44 am at 1:44 am |
  25. Person as we all are

    Many Americans (1.3Million) unemployed by no fault of their own. Myself I am 22 yrs old have worked hard an saved/ purchased all I have with little or no help from anyone. I have a home n which I bought on my own less then a year ago at this time I was working 50+ hours without any end in sight. Then just shy of 6 months ago (Which my UC 6months is shortly to its end) the company had mass lay off an closing due to no fault of own nor other employees effected. Let me remind you I am brought up an "Hard Headed" as many would say but see as "Strong, valued, an good willed" , I like to work an earn what I have such as my house I bought (While I was working hard with no end n sight). With this said please don't bring the parties differences into this as the common goal is all the same (Help an better the world, Humans/People, an ourselves). PASS the EUC extension it is only humane. Give the 1.3mil unemployed the comfort an relief that they will have HEAT,FOOD, SHELTER for FAMILY tomorrow. As yes I feel they should have required searches an reports of there applications monthly. I am sure few/many may abuse an use unemployment to relax an do in which they feel the want/ deserve but many are ACTIVELY SEARCHING for jobs an want/need to work rather then have help for what THEY EARNED AN WORKED for, NOT A FREE HANDOUT as several see it as. Doing this would be as if you had a football team any of your choice (I use football because this sport is known well), an having that one player that can never seem to get positive yards no matter what play you run, while others are gaining yards time after time. Do you cut the team? NO you cut the player! This is the same concept DO NOT reject this extension because you feel an your surveys say that EUC is not having a positive effect on American employment search due to the few abusing the PROGRAM in which ALL WORKED FOR! Get rid of the player that isn't performing to the level of standards expected. Again this is from the 22 YEAR OLD who has work hard for all that he has an by no means wants, what he feels is pity even though HE HAS WORKED/ PUT TIME IN to receive. An from the 22 YEAR OLD that will LOSE EVERYTHING the HE HAS WORKED SO HARD FOR by NO FAULT OF HIS OWN!! " Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you." Mathew 7:12. Think about that if you are in the 1.3+ MILLION EFFECTED by YOUR CHOICES!

    Sincerely the younger generation an FUTURE generation,

    Joshua McVey

    January 9, 2014 01:44 am at 1:44 am |
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