Extending unemployment benefits stumbles in Senate
January 14th, 2014
04:32 PM ET
8 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. Thomas

    Why dose Marco Rubio hate low income women ?

    January 14, 2014 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  2. bill

    Iran's leader "AMERICA SURRENDERS". CNN will not print truth so go to fox and read what the leader of Iran thinks about obama-'AMERICA SURRENDERS". How could any person with any mind think you can trust Iran and give up their sanctions??? in texas we call this a clue.

    January 14, 2014 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  3. Gurgyl

    -–other spending cuts!!! So just like Iraq war? Pakistan 30 billion dollars a year? Halliburton control undercover dealings? Which ones, when it comes to Americans without job–you fuss, I pity. Drive GOP out, America. God bless!!

    January 14, 2014 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  4. bencoates57

    Americans are crass, cavalier, greedy pigs.

    January 14, 2014 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  5. NotYoDaddy

    Gotta Pay if you want to Play.

    January 14, 2014 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
  6. andrew

    Let's pay for this with republican defense contracts money, which is worth 300 billion.

    January 14, 2014 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
  7. smith

    So the democrat controlled senate failed to pass an extension. Maybe the politicians are finally starting to learn that in order to fund a program(when in massive debt) you either need to cut funding to another program or raise the tax on the american worker.

    January 14, 2014 04:49 pm at 4:49 pm |
  8. robrickmon

    Most of the legislators are on board with an extension. They just aren't on board whipping out the credit card again.

    Find a way to pay for it, and the extension happens. Senator Reid might want to loosen the stranglehold he has on the senate. He needs to remember there are almost 50 senators from the other side that have ideas as well. 51 votes isn't a magical number that makes their input irrelevant.

    Maybe we need to start showing charts on how Reid has used the power of his office an "unprecedented" number of times to block the opposition from having input on bills.... it sure worked when he nuked the filibuster of appointments, didn't it?

    January 14, 2014 04:49 pm at 4:49 pm |
  9. reasonablebe

    here's an idea: spending cuts to pay for it: close up congress's perk places, close a few corporate loopholes.... and disallow multimillionaires tax write offs that benefit themselves- like mitt romneys $$$$$ horse expenses for a horse no one in his family rides (no medical use) and is just for 'appearances and status ( horse is not a biz as there is no expectation a gelding will ever bring in profits, or for that matter, a mare would produce anything which would briong in the costs involved in keeping, training, showing, taking to the olympics-–).

    January 14, 2014 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  10. Erick Holmes

    Another reason why GOP is for the rich. They couldn't even pass this. Now, they need to ask, being that the Republicans want a way to pay for this, why the h*** didn't they come up with a way to pay for the millions Bush asked for in his War in Iraq.

    January 14, 2014 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  11. carlos

    It's the party line.

    January 14, 2014 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  12. John

    Sorry but the bi-partisan agreement was for 3 month it was not until Reid came in and demanded it for the entire year did this bill fail. I think Reid is playing politics for the mid term election not what is in the best interest. It took give and take to come up with the 3 month extention but that means nothing to Reid

    January 14, 2014 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  13. Ryan in Texas

    The easiest thing would be for the Federal Gov't to make the extended benefits LOANS.
    That way there would be little impact on the budget, and the people would get the help they need without it being a handout or redistribution.
    They would owe it back in the form of taxes, and that could be stretched out as a re-payment plan.
    Why am I guessing the Democrats won't like the idea of the people getting the assistance paying it back, vs taking it from someone else?

    January 14, 2014 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  14. GOB OBSTRUCTIONISTS

    >

    In the last 4.5 years, the GOP has introduced:
    >

    76 bills on abortion
    163 bills on religion
    103 bills on family relationships
    76 bills on marriage
    122 bills on firearms
    904 bills on taxation
    52 bills on repealing a passed Law (ACA)
    >

    NOT 1 BILL ON JOBS!!!...and... they blocked the American Jobs Act...and now they refuse to give incentives for Companies to HIRE AMERICAN, and now they FAIL the American people AGAIN....

    Mitch McConnell. (2010 As leader of the Republicans in the Senate)
    "OUR TOP POLITICAL priority over the next **TWO YEARS** SHOULD BE; To deny Obama a 2nd Term."
    >
    GOP: Putting MILLIONS out of work... To make 1 Man lose his Job!

    January 14, 2014 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  15. donnell jones

    So as me n my family get ready to sleep n our car u govt officials go home n enjoy a hot meal n your nice homes

    January 14, 2014 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  16. Mike

    It's about time they closed the wallet. Unemployment shouldn't last forever.

    January 14, 2014 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  17. Josh

    ^^^^Dumb Comment.

    January 14, 2014 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  18. David

    And how did this fail if the Dems have control of the senate?

    January 14, 2014 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  19. DP

    You gave away American Jobs for American people now you will not provide support for those same people whom jobs you gave away.

    January 14, 2014 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  20. bill

    and we know how obama is thought of by the world. Iran just declared "AMERICA SURRENDERS" with the obama/kerry/iran agreement to give up the sanctions on Iran and release 500 million dollars that Iran can use to what???? enrich more uraniunm-wow. what leaders

    January 14, 2014 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  21. GODZILLA1

    Soon the GOP will appropriate the question Marie Antoinette made famous (or infamous) 'CAN'T THEY EAT CAKE?"

    January 14, 2014 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  22. Lydia

    I dislike Republicans so much that I have not one nice thing to say about them, any of them!!

    January 14, 2014 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  23. Wardo22

    Since we are going on five years of "Emergency Unemployment Compensation", doesn't the word "emergency"
    lose some of it's meaning?

    January 14, 2014 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  24. OBG

    Once again, Reid demonstrates his lack of ability to lead an organization meet a financial objective.

    Of course Reid's fall back explanation for his failure is to blame others and try his best to scare people.

    January 14, 2014 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  25. jlp

    Pay for it by reducing corporate welfare.

    January 14, 2014 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
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