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

    Where was the government when MY unemployment benefits ran out in 2011. No one was there for me, and I have had to survive. How can someone not be bitter when the needs of some are forgotten, only for others to claim to "deserve" them.

    January 14, 2014 06:47 pm at 6:47 pm |
  2. mary

    @ Homeless..

    Don't worry.. They will be.. Their day is coming.. some just got there first..They have no idea what the GOP agenda is..
    When they are standing in an assembly line making a dollar a day and eating and drinking and breathing filth.. They will understand what it means . And be so sorry they thought it was about being lazy or lacking ambition..
    They will realize its about money and and the power it buys.. And who was bought and who paid the price.

    January 14, 2014 06:48 pm at 6:48 pm |
  3. SOS

    Unbelievable! I'm totally disgusted with this Congress and especially John "Bonehead" Boehner and his Tea Party Cronies!!! I don't know what disgusts me more: the careless disregard of Congress toward the working middle class who have fallen on hard times or to the apathetic people who comment on here and label unemployed people as "lazy". You should be thankful that you have a job and not have to go through what some of these people are going through. You have no idea until you walk in their shoes!

    January 14, 2014 06:48 pm at 6:48 pm |
  4. Sad story

    Leave it to Republicans to force the country into a government shut down costing taxpayers more than tenfold the amount of extending EUC benefits for 2014. Only to then destroy the lives of millions of American families by thanking them by NOT extending unemployment benefits. Shame on you!!!

    January 14, 2014 06:49 pm at 6:49 pm |
  5. PamelaKP

    I don't understand why they can't compromise on who's benefits they would extend. OK, if they don't want to extend benefits to the people that have already been on FEUC the full 99 weeks then I understand. But I had only been on them for 8 weeks and got kicked off. I am still going to interviews trying to find a job. I now have ZERO income. Nothing!! I've been calling around everywhere trying to at least get a gas card so I can GO to interviews. I've been looking into donating plasma, maybe SELL my car. I don't know what else to do in the mean time. I'm not asking for a hand out. IF the government WANTS their f-n money back, I'll pay it back WHEN I GET A JOB. See there's a second option I just can up with. Not hard!!

    January 14, 2014 06:51 pm at 6:51 pm |
  6. stutzman

    After watching BOTH parties get nothing accomplished on this matter since reconvening after the holidays (live on CSPAN). I'm tearing up my voter registration card and having my name removed from the voter registration files. I have lost all confidence and trust in these buffoons from BOTH parties. They dont care about the American people at all. And at least this way I'm nnot responsible for their continued existance in office.

    January 14, 2014 06:53 pm at 6:53 pm |
  7. justinmooretx

    Growing up, I had tremendous pride in my country's people, government, and faith. Now, I am just disappointed and embarrassed. How can a country so prosperous be so dumb and ignorant? I didn't complain when the government gave corporations $700,000,000,000.00 in welfare (No strings attached), because I believed that they knew what was best for this country. The fact that the government and the American people are trashing and punishing those who were hurt the most at no fault of their own puts our social moral at 3ed world status. What's my point? A person can be blessed with all the money they can bare, but stupidity, greed, and corruption will bring down even the wealthiest man.

    January 14, 2014 06:53 pm at 6:53 pm |
  8. Coping with the Extremes

    P.S. Forgot to mention, when I worked and earned a great salary with benefits I of course contributed very well to the economy. Now, with no unemployment extension, purchases are usually just for the most basic of needs. I know of others who have told me they worked in departments where there were five salaried and benefited workers, and over the course of a few years those departments are now whittled down to one overworked individual. Where is this recovery really occurring? How real can it be? Is it still propped up by cheap loans obtained by large corporations who bypass putting the money back into U.S. households by contracting out to cheap foreign labor, and increasingly catering to other foreign countries because they can afford what U.S. citizens can't?

    January 14, 2014 06:53 pm at 6:53 pm |
  9. Sad day

    Man i am sitting here thinking, how can any party care about regular people welfare if they are playing games with the public well being.

    January 14, 2014 06:54 pm at 6:54 pm |
  10. lttlejohn

    "Republicans say at least that any extension must be paid for through other spending cuts."

    Didn't the gov. shutdown cost about what they say extending benefits 11 months will cost?
    Good job repubs!

    January 14, 2014 06:54 pm at 6:54 pm |
  11. Name Dona

    The Government did their job today not . Thank you for not helping our people in this country . Lets give our money to other countries , but when we need the help all you do is say no . Maybe we need to fire you oh and when we do you only get $300. And no health Ins. Let us know how you can live on that

    January 14, 2014 06:55 pm at 6:55 pm |
  12. really strange

    i made it to thru the 6th grade,started supporting myself at 14,i always have a job,i think because i never ask how much do you pay,just thank you for hiring me..i pulled nails out of a cotton jen,for 2 years at 1 dollar an hour and walk to work,i got paid for 8 hours,and we worked from before sunrise to it got dark,that was our 8 hours..you say you cant find a job,your not wanting one,cause theres plenty,just not what you want,take anything and be thankful

    January 14, 2014 06:57 pm at 6:57 pm |
  13. paul

    I was collecting the max amount and i took a job that paid 100 a week less than unemployment.looks like a smart move now

    January 14, 2014 06:59 pm at 6:59 pm |
  14. Razz

    Of course it failed! They aren't Banks, or auto manufacturers, or oil tycoons who can come back and contribute to their own campaigns later.

    January 14, 2014 07:00 pm at 7:00 pm |
  15. Peaches

    Been on UI for 6 months. I am a 54 year old single female and supporting my son who is 26 and can't get a job either. I've noticed that all jobs in my field (sales) are now mostly commission only. And the jobs that pay hourly are paying about $10 an hour at part time because they don't want to pay health insurance.

    I also noticed that people aren't spending like they used to, even since last year. So with a commission only job at the moment I might only make a third of what I used to make at $30 an hour. So I'm afraid I might lose everything and my son and I may be on the streets since everyone else I know in town is also hanging on by their fingernails and certainly not in a position to help us.

    We live on Maui, and the tourists aren't on spending sprees while their here because food is so expensive. Double and triple what it costs on the mainland. I definitely believe that our economy is getting worse instead of better. Some things gonna snap soon, and I hope it's not us Americans!

    January 14, 2014 07:01 pm at 7:01 pm |
  16. Name

    This is whats going to occur becsuse youve become so comfirtable in not extending these benefits. And because all of yoy are muliti billiinares and millionaires . Lets look at this closeky shhall we. because dalaries such as yours you gave unto yourselfs each year is apart in this searching for ways ti cut everything else but your salaries and bring home pays. Lets see this from 300,000 to billions how much did you steal from the government and congress and the cookie jar for the needy not the greedy. How much percentages did you tack on when padding laws to benefits yourselfs? How much was the amounts of that negouations? Dare to say? How much did you take from each people yoy catergorized in levels? How many times did you take from the poor the middle ?hoeclass people? Then from the wealthy without plea bsrgains? How many times did you hit one group from everytime there was is a need?

    January 14, 2014 07:02 pm at 7:02 pm |
  17. Russ

    It's amazing that 83% of Democrats favor extending the unemployment benefits and only 42% of Republicans approve of it. Most of the "takers" that Repubs whine about or Republicans. The Red States consume more federal handout dollars than any of the Blue states. The Blues States want to help them and contibute the most in taxes to do that. What part of that don't Republicans understand. Stupid is as Stupid does.

    January 14, 2014 07:07 pm at 7:07 pm |
  18. IW

    The dem. say 2+2=3, the rep. say 2+2=5, they're both wrong and they both suck! We need a 2+2=4 government

    January 14, 2014 07:09 pm at 7:09 pm |
  19. WOW!

    Remember! These are the people we put in the seats to make things good for our states and cities. Now they make
    millions per year. They care less for those that put them there. Even the person who now is jobless and now penniless. Really look deeply into the person you vote for next time.

    January 14, 2014 07:12 pm at 7:12 pm |
  20. sammy750

    Ky Senator McConnell is a senile obstructionist. He doesn't want any resolutions to help the unemployed. This senile old man needs defeated in November. I think the people of KY finally understands that. DEFEAT MCCONNELL

    January 14, 2014 07:15 pm at 7:15 pm |
  21. Dr Tom

    No matter how difficult we make living without a job , it does not lower the unemployment rate. The most it can do is make someone get or take a job that someone else would have had. The net gain to the rolls of the employed is zero. The only way to decrease unemployment is to increase the number of jobs.

    January 14, 2014 07:21 pm at 7:21 pm |
  22. Julie

    My husband was unemployed for a few months in 2012. Thankfully we started 2013 off with a new job for him. Half the pay for back breaking work. But he went every day. At the end of October he was laid off from that job. He applied for unemployment and was granted $243 a week. That was enough for groceries and to help with gas for me to continue my job. We really didn't stress when we saw that the benefits for the long term unemployed were in jeopardy because we didn't think it would affect us. Well it did. His benefits, although he worked several months in 2013 were cut off. At the point they were cut off I had just used my paycheck to pay all our bills. We had no warning that his benefits were in jeopardy. The day we were supposed to get his check we got a letter instead. I had $14.00 in the bank. To feed our family and provide gas for my 60 mile commute to work for 2 weeks. Thankfully a family member helped us out. But from here on out it's all on me. Guess what I had to do. We had to apply for food stamps. My husband can no longer afford the fuel or daycare to go out applying for jobs. Sure he can apply online and does so daily but face to face is best. These congressmen/women, our REPRESENTATIVES, are so far away from how average hard working people actually have to live in this country that they have no idea of the struggles they have imposed on us. What have I eaten every day for lunch the last two weeks? A peanut butter and jelly sandwich. IF we had bread. If not ... I took some crackers. Food stamps are not immediate. It's at least a 30 day wait according to the website. I'll buy some food this week when I get paid. Enough to get by. I have to keep the electric on. With the cold snap that bill almost doubled! Yup. Living in AMERICA with a 'GREAT' government... it sure make me feel comforted. NOT.

    January 14, 2014 07:29 pm at 7:29 pm |
  23. tiredofgames

    Republicans want to give tax breaks to the rich because all of them use inside trade information to fatten their bank accounts. They need that tax break. While every day Americans deal with the loss of income from the furlough and now this. Shame on them all. I am not affiliated with either party I like people not parties but I will not vote for another republican again! As a govt contractor I never got my back pay from the furlough and now my husband who does construction is out of benefits as of January 2nd.

    January 14, 2014 07:30 pm at 7:30 pm |
  24. HuBent

    This is ridiculous! Have worked everyday for forty years and this is the thanks I get from the government. Without extensions, people have a hard time eating and paying for expenses to keep looking for work

    January 14, 2014 07:39 pm at 7:39 pm |
  25. TSN

    I hope all the people that think that unemployed people are sitting back and enjoying their life; I hope this situation happens to you and then you will realize how fun it is to sit at home sending applications and don't get any interview call back.

    January 14, 2014 07:41 pm at 7:41 pm |
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