Extending unemployment benefits stumbles in Senate
January 14th, 2014
04:32 PM ET
3 months ago

Extending unemployment benefits stumbles in Senate

Updated 8:21 p.m. ET, 1/14/2014

(CNN) – Senate passage of long-term unemployment benefits appeared in doubt on Tuesday following the failure of two procedural votes, leaving the fate of emergency government assistance to more than 1 million people in limbo.

The votes come after fits and starts in negotiations involving Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and eight Republican Senators.

All parties said they hoped the talks would continue but several acknowledged the bill is now on a back-burner as the Senate scrambles to deal with other pressing legislation before a week-long recess.

One Democratic source said this would be a "cooling off period" after emotional debate.

Talks broke down over policy and process.

The White House said it was disappointed in the development, blaming Republicans. President Barack Obama and Democrats have been pressing for an extension of the recession-era program that expired in December.

"We will continue to work with both sides to find a solution because the cost of inaction is simply too high," White House spokesman Jay Carney said.

Proponents argue that leaving long-term jobless Americans without a safety net was unacceptable and would also harm the economy since there would be less money for them to spend on goods and services.

According to a Quinnipiac University survey released last week, voters supported by a 58%-37% margin extending unemployment benefits for three months.

There was a partisan divide: Support was 83%-13% among Democrats and 54%-41% among Independent voters, with Republicans opposed 54%-42%.

If a candidate for Congress supports extending jobless benefits, a third of those questioned said they'd be more likely to vote for that candidate, with 24% percent saying less likely and four in 10 saying it wouldn't affect their vote.

Partisan differences this year in Congress are magnified by the prospect of next November's midterm elections. Republicans have their eye on retaking the Senate where negotiators disagreed over how to pay for extending unemployment benefits, which run about $25 billion a year.

Democrats argued they made a major concession by agreeing to offset the expense, something that has not been done when similar benefits were approved previously.

But Republicans said that payment plan - which would have extended some of the automatic budget cuts required under so-called sequestration - was insufficient because those cuts wouldn't kick in for 10 years.

In turn, Democrats argued the GOP proposal to increase the size of some of those same spending cuts was draconian and would hurt many of the same people in need of assistance.

Republicans countered their proposal wasn't that different from the Democratic plan, except that the cuts would be implemented right away.

Wrangling over amendment also impacted the outcome.

Republicans - especially the six Senators who voted with Democrats to bring unemployment benefits up for debate - wanted to propose amendments on the floor. Republicans regularly complain Reid blocks them from offering amendments.

He initially refused to allow any GOP amendments, but relented under pressure.

Still, his proposal for five GOP amendments, each requiring 60 votes to pass while the underlying Democratic bill would only need 51 votes, angered Republicans.

"This is utterly absurd," Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said in rejecting the plan.

He argued Democrats were purposely trying to scuttle the bill so they could blame Republicans for blocking benefits.

Is Reid making a good faith effort to pass the bill, a reporter asked McConnell.

"Of course not," he replied.

Democrats defended their proposal for amendments, saying it was only way to ensure that in the end the bill would pass.

They also acknowledged they were unwilling to "walk on hot coals," in the words of Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-New York, to vote on politically charged amendments offered by Republicans.

"In the end of the day, this debate is not about amendments or Senate procedure, this is about 1.4 million desperate Americans who, through no fault of their own, need the help of their federal government," Reid said.

Despite the bad blood between the parties, Senators said they hoped they would return to the issue soon and cut a deal.

"I am perennially hopeful" about eventually getting a deal, Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, one of the principal GOP negotiators, said with a smile. "Otherwise, how could I be here, right?"

The Republican-led House has not taken up any proposal to renew extended unemployment benefits.


Filed under: Congress • unemployment
soundoff (574 Responses)
  1. bryan

    It amazes me they had ho problems approving a 1.1 trillion dollars to keep the goverment running through SEPTEMBER. Nice yo know the people in the Senate will still be getting their paychecks. Right before they take another week off. My job outlook looked promising a few monthes ago, before these same people shut down the goverment. Now after massive job searchs, seversl interviews. Im going to lose everything!! Hope the people in the Senate have a wonderful week off. Dont worry about the 1.2 million people waiting for you to do your jobs .

    January 15, 2014 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
  2. mr broke man...

    When the goverment has to worry about the people they cut off breaking in they homes and robbing them and they family members maybe then they will consider helping the people and country they suppose to help.i for one will not let my kids starve by any means.when it gdt to bad andthe war comes to they front door then they will care but then it will be to late.

    January 15, 2014 05:41 pm at 5:41 pm |
  3. tony

    un real single dad no gas now to even go look for work keep sending aid to other countries cant even help Americans hope The president uses his pen and phone push these millionaires in congress ,senate to the side that are all going on theyre fine vacation next week what a joke!!!

    January 15, 2014 05:45 pm at 5:45 pm |
  4. Namebudden

    This is hurting a lot of people I don't understand why they won't except the three month to talk over it instead of arguing like kids.I am a single father with 2 girls I can't pay my rent and I've had to go to my mother's just for them to eat I'm doing everything in my power to keep my boat afloat this is sad and my prayers are to all of u who's suffering through this nonsense

    January 15, 2014 05:46 pm at 5:46 pm |
  5. Sah

    this is the time our own is in need of help. everybodys been down in luck, and there was always someone who cared and gave a helping hand. thats human nature. extending benefits will give people a chance at hope and never giving up faith in themselves and others. we are one nation.

    January 15, 2014 05:58 pm at 5:58 pm |
  6. Serious though.....

    I lost my job due to my organization selling some of their properties therefore placing a large amount of workers out of a job . I didn't want unemployment so I hustled looking for another job for months ....finally with my back against the wall I applied for unemployment only to be told in a few short weeks sequestration would kick in all I could do was smh...I have had to give up my home due to my rent food and bills had outweighed my income . I have been consistent in seeking employment and its been extremely discouraging . Its hard to go from being independent to being told go to social services I dont want WELFARE and FOOD STAMPS I really enjoy of being able to take care of me . I understand things happen however its not cool for someone willing able mind body and spirit to have to turn to WELFARE to get through its unfair .....their are people out here who do the right things and the deck works against us . GOVERMENT I need an extension I dont want WELFARE I'm working on getting work I have had to relocate again I need to be able to take careof me .Im in crisis while you guys are on another week break I need an extension I have no intentions of living my life off of the government I just need some more time its really not that easy out here . I'm in panic mode , crisis has set in please dont send me to the WELFARE office I dont want welfare I just need some more time 3 to 6 months would be awesome . Hurry back from your recess and help I'm hungry and homeless I'm riding on the kindness of friends I'm very uncomfortable I'm 45 and not use to living like this . HELP.

    January 15, 2014 06:00 pm at 6:00 pm |
  7. Steph

    So great that they will be taking a week long recess. Mean while we have no money coming in. This is the first time I have ever collected unemployment and to hear the back an forth between Democrats and Republicans like this is a game. Not a game for all effected this is our lives!!!!!!!!

    January 15, 2014 06:01 pm at 6:01 pm |
  8. Judy

    I hope the Senators enjoy their recess and eat well, in a well-lit dining room... I am not paying my utilities or buying groceries because of this ridiculous unemployment standoff. We need to fire them all come November – anyone current holding a seat needs to be in the unemployment line,. We need new blood in Washington – they certainly aren't serving us!

    January 15, 2014 06:10 pm at 6:10 pm |
  9. Name unemployed

    This is sad!!!! And now they gonna take off for another week!!!!! OBAMA u need to do something right now!!!!!!! U guys knew this would happen and went on x-mas break!!!! Now your back playing with peoples lives!!!!!
    Now you leaving for a week leaving us out in the COLD!!!!!!! come on now!!!!!

    January 15, 2014 06:13 pm at 6:13 pm |
  10. Rob

    It is time for them to do their jobs and take the gold spoons out of their mouths. They are all acting like 2 year olds. Before they take care of all the other people around the world they should be taking care of the people in this country. Come November when they are up for reelection I hope they like being on the unemployment line.

    January 15, 2014 06:26 pm at 6:26 pm |
  11. Yeahright

    Allison, you are the poster child for cognitive dissonance. You commend the Republicans for "growing a pair", yet bemoan the fact that you are not getting benefits. Apparently it's OK for others to get thrown out in the cold, just not you? You blast the Democrats for trying to help not only you, but others in your situation, and then condemn them for encouraging people to become dependent on government. People that are eligible for these benefits HAD a job, and would much rather still HAVE that job than getting a fraction of their salary in UE benefits.

    January 15, 2014 06:45 pm at 6:45 pm |
  12. Republican Really Do Suck

    They are fine with protecting the BONUSES the bankers got after they crashed the economy, but the would rather spit on the tax payer when those same bankers destroy the economics of employment. America has a Republican problem, the ideology is bankrupt and criminal.

    January 15, 2014 06:49 pm at 6:49 pm |
  13. Tony

    I agree with the comments here, but why do we just say these people instead of of these republicans. Democrats are fighting for us while republicans are fighting against us. Look at the history of unemployment benefits. Republicans are against anything that helps the poor or unemployed. In their view you are unemployed because you are lazy. You are poor because you make bad decisions. Let's vote these heartless, despicable idiots out. Believe it or not, there are unemployed republicans also. I wonder what they think about their party's stance on this issue. On the other hand I may not want to know. Good luck to everyone here.

    January 15, 2014 07:09 pm at 7:09 pm |
  14. Lori

    I've been unemployed since August. I've been on a couple interviews & still nothing. Now I have nothing to help pay our mortgage. My husband is now working long hours. He has recently went from a 90k job to 50k because the company closed the office. It seems to get worse & worse for us. I hope they sleep well in their big homes & hope they don't have to worry how they will survive when they look at their children. It's ok my faith will get me through! Shame on them!

    January 15, 2014 07:24 pm at 7:24 pm |
  15. Pat Williams

    Congress and Obama should be ashamed of their actions while 1.4 million Americans struggle day to day to survive. America once was a great country and now we have to put up with these egotistical clowns. Look yourself in the mirror and tell us that you represent America! Go take another vacation while the unemployed suffer!

    January 15, 2014 07:32 pm at 7:32 pm |
  16. Name

    The funny part is they know we are suffering and they don't care so focused on pushing their own political agendas that we the people don't really matter I hope my landlord has a heart.

    January 15, 2014 07:41 pm at 7:41 pm |
  17. Janelle

    It is beyond ridiculous that they are going on another vaction, and even worse that they fail to extend unemployment. I can't see how they sleep at night knowing that 1.3 millions of people's is without income. I guess they rather pay out more for welfare than extend unemployment. I agree with a comment above, the crime rate is going to sky rocket because people's refuse to let their kids go without food and shelter. Yes, foodstamps might be an option, but they can't but thing that you can't eat(that's you will need to live), or pay bills. Welfare is a joke also because you don't get that much and its once a month. So many peoples that never had to be on welfare thinks they gives you a lot of free money, but that's not true. This is so devastating and sad! Im without household, products that I need and gas for my car to job hunt. I hope and pray that all that's against it and the ones talking against don't ever have to experience what we are now. It breaks my heart to hear most of these stories because some have it alot worser than me and my family. I pray for all though!

    January 15, 2014 07:44 pm at 7:44 pm |
  18. Cynthia

    I had to return my son Christmas toys just to have money for gas and to put something on my electric bill. Congress if you are capable of reading simple English.....thanks for disgracing your Country!

    January 15, 2014 07:54 pm at 7:54 pm |
  19. Disgusted American

    I find it interesting how easy it was to approve 35 billion to fund the bombing of Syria so that we could kill people for killing people, when it comes to helping American's in need weeks of debate is needed. Does voting even matter at this point? It is no secret that our country is ran by corporations that bank-roll power-hungry megalomaniacs that would sell their own Grandma for political gain. I am going to start an organization that accepts donations to purchase and send a copy of the Grapes of Wrath to each member of the House and Senate. Hunger is the seed of revolution...

    January 15, 2014 07:56 pm at 7:56 pm |
  20. Mary

    Wait until it is time to vote! WHAT ARE THEY DOING? We need some money to live and eat. We are not a charity case. Just people who are without jobs, who are looking for jobs and who need their benefits! Come on
    stop stalling, We need our checks not to splurge on non essentials, but to live. Thank you.

    January 15, 2014 08:05 pm at 8:05 pm |
  21. WAT-A-WORLD

    I guess when the regular Joe starts looting and stealing, crime starts rising than I guess its too late huh..............Stop playing with the people.

    January 15, 2014 09:11 pm at 9:11 pm |
  22. Chill

    It bothers me to see folks taking a recess while little children are looking for there next meal
    You can't look for a job either you car got repo or no gas money no Internet because no money for that so really you expect for a someone to look for a job how explain how? So I guess the next thing is to going thousands or millions under the bridge with a card board box but congress enjoy your fine cars feeding your kids and sit back and read your papers in your warm houses take a vacation while billions will be hungry, cold, starving and homeless wow The USA

    January 15, 2014 09:46 pm at 9:46 pm |
  23. sm

    Makes me sad reading all of this. I too am affected by this...Filing bankcruptcy soon and trying to get food stamps. Two kids, one is a baby....that alone is costing me a lot for the diapers and formula, etc. I could not predict one year ago that I would be in this position. Things turned upside down so fast and sent me down this sad sad road. I hate it. So now no income at all! I guess since I'm almost two months behind on my mortgage, I will lose the house soon. I went from superior credit, stable income, married, homeowner, mother, etc. to a flipping poorer than poor family. I dont know what else to say. I do know I would thoroughly enjoy a vacation next week...but instead I will be dodging creditor calls, making payment arrangements,trying to get some foodstamps and taking more advil for my everyday headaches. Love how they just passed this large bill without blinking. Giving themselves raises!!! what!? Cant extend unemployment? How is it I am cut after six months and I have heard others have received 99 weeks??!!! Who makes these rules anyway?? LMAO cause thats all I can do! BTW, I am a nurse!!! Thanks!! Like so many others said, keep sending boatloads of money overseas. On a positive note, soon filing my taxes and should be quite a large return, but I will then be catching up with all these back bills.....oh well. We are all just tiny tiny nothings in the governments eyes i guess.

    January 15, 2014 09:51 pm at 9:51 pm |
  24. cajunfury

    This is truly sickening. How can these politicians feel this is right? How can they possibly go on an 11-day and not settle this? I am in complete awe. People are losing their houses, can't pay their bills and are unable to feed their own children. Some of these people don't have family to rely on in this time of need. What's even more surprising how do these politicians think they even be considered when it's election time. I want these politicians to look a number of these people, who are unemployed, in the face and explain to them what the holdup is. This is ridiculous.

    January 15, 2014 10:02 pm at 10:02 pm |
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