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. Judy

    I'm one of the long term unemployed, lost house couldn't afford mortgage, car taxes, or insurance after layoff. Will work for benefits. Rejected over and over for jobs. Employed 30 years in job before being blind sighted by lay off. Had to move do to foreclosure. Filed bankruptcy. Daughter put college on hold to keep a roof over our head. My faith keeps me from giving up...

    January 14, 2014 07:42 pm at 7:42 pm |
  2. Nancyh

    I have been unemployed like the others above. Been on 3 interviews after applying for over 200 jobs. Not only is frustrating it is depressing. Like the others are saying, I hope it never happens to you.

    January 14, 2014 07:44 pm at 7:44 pm |
  3. jake614

    We are now headed to week 3 without a check and losing essentials like phones , gas, food, and my car insurance is lapsing. This is no longer about the people. Is partisan and regardless of how or what affect it has on us who want desperately to work. We are just the pawns. Wonder how any member of congress would feel just to be in our shoes of uncertainty, fear and hopelessness. Every day of a standoff that goes nowhere brings us closer to that edge of the cliff.

    January 14, 2014 07:48 pm at 7:48 pm |
  4. Hank

    Well, don't blame anyone except Obama for not having one ounce of creativity or vision. Obama is a cry baby whiner without one ounce true leadership. Our financial crisis from 2008 is nothing compared to what FDR had to deal with. but FDR found ways to put people to work didn't he? In rural areas, in metropolitan areas. He looked at America and its totality and found ways to bring about a sense of pride and patriotic glory during the worse of times. The way I see is Obama is just not capable of being a President. He should just resign and go work for a non profit whose goals are more aligned with his goals of just taking on the rich white man. That's all he's done since day one. That and suing states for every "injustice" he and Holder think they've committed, from trying to weed out illegals, to suspending black trouble makers from school. So sorry about the long term unemployment and the fact that the unemployment numbers haven't moved a blip under his tenure, you get what you get when you fall for a delusional social organizer with no real world experience. But hey, he's got his pen and phone so don't worry. Happy days are soon to come! So he says anyway

    January 14, 2014 07:53 pm at 7:53 pm |
  5. jose

    Thanks to this government we have I was laid off because of the budget cuts and now cut off of unemployment benefits. I couldn't get hired on permanent because I was not prior military cause veteran get first looks before anybody else. Thanks government

    January 14, 2014 07:58 pm at 7:58 pm |
  6. mad as hell

    Some of these fatcats making their steady incomes say that the unemployed need skills training to get better jobs. I say, I already have my degree and the student loan debt to prove it. I HAVE WORKED SINCE I WAS 16 YEARS OLD!!! NOW I NEED SOME HELP!!! I'm not looking for a handout. I am still looking for a job but where is the gas money going to come from? Where am I supposed to shower when I get an interview now that I'll be homeless in a month? When in these lawmakers lives have they ever even had the chance to know what we are going through? I have voted republican my entire life but after seeing what's going on. How these republicans would desert me because of a difference of opinion over where the money will come from. Not to mention how they think 3 months will be enough time when I've searced endlessly for over one year. THIS IS DISGUSTING!!!

    January 14, 2014 08:00 pm at 8:00 pm |
  7. Jessica

    I have been unemployed for more than a year I have searched for work non stop and nothing is out there I worked for the government for over ten years as a contract spec. And when I changed companies a year and a half later 1 person from each department was let go because of downsizing. I had no degree so I would get passed up for a person with no experience just because they had a degree. Now I go to school online full time to earn that degree that our world hold in more regard than years of on the job experience. I work the only job I can find which is a few ours a day in a school lunch room. I depend on my unemployment to pay my house payment or to feed my kids. My husband has a good job but we no longer live in a world where families can live on one income. I don't follow politics but just once I would like to see that all these people making these decisions lose their income when a agreement is not made like the shut down I bet everyone senate or congress got their paycheck. Now they are about to go on a 11 day break before making a agreement for unemployment benefits, let me guess I bet that break is paid as well.

    January 14, 2014 08:03 pm at 8:03 pm |
  8. K Stressed to the Max

    Good job ladies and gentlemen in the Senate. I am sure you have earned every cent of your salaries. Those of us who have not accomplished that feat would appreciate the assistance the extension would bring. Those of us who are law abiding citizens do not want to turn into the criminal element that keeps our local correctional officers employed. I have said it before, I would rather starve than steal but I am also a firm believer that I deserve the unemployment my taxes goes into because by the time I reach retirement age there won't be any social security. So, I may as well enjoy it now. Just saying.

    January 14, 2014 08:05 pm at 8:05 pm |
  9. Deenix73

    I never reply to these forums but some of you people are absolutely crazy. I am a college educated, pharmaceudical research lab tech with over 15 years experience. I am also a vet of 2 branches of the military. at 40 years old I have been working since I was 14. Not as you put it lazy or looking for a handout. I now find myself as one who has had their unemployment run out after my National Institude of Health Research was writen out of last years government budget and our study was cancelled. Since then a job has been hard to come by.
    To those who say move where the jobs are I say that I moved from New Jersey to Research Triangle Park, NC in hopes of finding employment since as you that say "go where the jobs are" will say. This is where the jobs should have been.
    Not only did I move here, but I moved away from my family, including my 8 and 9 year old daughters. I moved from my house and into a small 1br apt here to be able to look for work.
    The UE check may not have been much but it paid my rent, allowed me to have food, and send money back to my family in NJ. It allowed me to pay the deposit for my sons dorm room so he would be able to go back to school for his senior year of college.
    So I say to you that have all of the answers, it is not as easy as you think and hope you never find yourself in any of our situations.

    January 14, 2014 08:10 pm at 8:10 pm |
  10. cindy bishop

    republicans, get your head out of your butt and open your eyes! do you not see that YOU ARE KILLING PEOPLE! People are losing their homes as they have no way to pay for them. do you not relize that this will cause more home invasions,robberies. but then maybe we should all commit a crime and go to jail, at least that way we would have a roof over our heads, 3 meals a day, heat at the taxpayers expense.

    January 14, 2014 08:13 pm at 8:13 pm |
  11. Winston Smith

    If they were in the unemployment line things would have looked different. There's always this next election to correct this situation. Hopefully any and all republicans can then experience being out of work.

    January 14, 2014 08:13 pm at 8:13 pm |
  12. Kay

    This is a disgrace to the American people who need help during a time when people are fighting over jobs. I'm so sick of watching our government help other countries and leave our citizens with no hope or resources. What's gone on this year in government is an absolute mess. The government shut down and all the jobs on hold with no money coming in, food stamps cut back, mandatory health care costs and now this. People are going to start reacting aggressively and we're all going to be in trouble. You have to put a plan in place to slowly get people back on track not just take everything away. Shelters are going to fill up with families and children are going to have nowhere to live. Those people looking for jobs? How is that going to happen while their getting evicted and have no where to go. How do you present yourself in an interview knowing your homeless and have failed as a parent. I'm embarrassed I ever called myself a republican...

    January 14, 2014 08:20 pm at 8:20 pm |
  13. ARA

    I have was laid off after being employed 13 years with the same employer. I have been looking for work and have been on 4 interviews after placing countless applications and have not been able to get a job. I have worked for the past 20 years since graduating from college and never asked for any type of goverment assistance besides the unemployment that I was receiving. It is very sad to know that my government has let me down when I'm in need. They are penalizing hard working people who have contributed to the us economy the most. We are not welfare recipients, we are the hard dedicated workers who were laid off due to to no fault of our own. I currently don't have healthcare insurance and now don't have money to make ends meet while I find a job.

    January 14, 2014 08:20 pm at 8:20 pm |
  14. dmc

    I can not believe the number of comments from people that are in exactly the same place that I am. And I have to concur with everything said, walk a mile in our shoes before criticizing and judging us. To not extend unemployment benefits would go against all previous recession period actions by government. And what is Harry Reid thinking? Nevada has one of the highest unemployment rates in the nation. Way to support your constituents.........

    January 14, 2014 08:23 pm at 8:23 pm |
  15. WOW!

    Thank you for telling the people that truly earned the unemployment to starve. Do not worry about having utilities or a home. Just make sure to vote for me for reelection. Polls even showed that the majority of Americans wanted to pass it. Stop showing and having those polls because it really does not make a difference. They vote on what they want because their family is sitting pretty in a nice home and eating great meals each day. We The People stands for nothing these days. While they get richer, we get the shaft. It is a darn shame to give the shaft to the people that pay you. The very people that put you in the seat you are in. I am sure you would not vote to cut your wages. Now I know why tons of Americans moved to Canada......

    January 14, 2014 08:32 pm at 8:32 pm |
  16. Whatever

    If business was doing their job properly, govt wouldn't have to get involved. Why won't business contribute to its own future? Loser captains of industry need govt to wipe their buts. Bigger loser GOP not upset when free market gets free money from govt.

    January 14, 2014 08:36 pm at 8:36 pm |
  17. l chris voss

    Pay for syirya's problems but not the problems at home. Who is more important. Us or abroad

    January 14, 2014 08:38 pm at 8:38 pm |
  18. Rochelle

    Just a shame how they treat the American people!
    When November rolls around every last one of them that voted 'no' to help the people who lost their job due to no fault of their own should lose theirs!
    You can not qualify for unemployment unless you had a job!
    Calling people lazy is shameful and a plain downright lie to the American people!
    Pass the bill already! Two weeks with no income?
    This is America?

    January 14, 2014 08:42 pm at 8:42 pm |
  19. Star

    "Momma, I'm hungry!" says the little child that lives with his unemployed mother, and may I add it is to no fault of her own. It seems only that mother cares what her child says, because the government officials don't seem to care. Please remember: YOU WILL REAP WHAT YOU SOW!

    January 14, 2014 08:42 pm at 8:42 pm |
  20. Keith

    So, the Republicans are blocking another bill that will help the poor and disadvantaged in America. Surprise, surprise !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    January 14, 2014 08:49 pm at 8:49 pm |
  21. Og84

    It is sad that when the big corporate companies ask for money, they are too big too fail. But when maint st citizens need assistance from the same tax money that was taken from us it's not that big of a deal. Both democrats and republicans are garbage. Time for a revolution America.

    January 14, 2014 08:52 pm at 8:52 pm |
  22. Sam

    I agree.. We send money to other countries but Rebulicans will not help there own!!! Disgrace!!!

    January 14, 2014 08:55 pm at 8:55 pm |
  23. Hungry

    Trying to decide whether to pay my rent or feed my family is getting tougher every day. I have been unemployed, by no fault of my own thanks to downsizing, for over a year, have applied to many jobs. I'm over qualified for most jobs and employers won't hire me because they know I'm not there long term, they know the moment something better comes along I am leaving. Other jobs I have applied for I am under educated so I enrolled in school to learn a new trade and ince again employers have a hard time hiring someone who has schedule restrictions due to school.
    To those who say the unemployed are lazy and finding work is easy I say quit your job and try to find a new one that not only pays what you're accustomed to but the benifits that go along with it. When that doesn't work out, and I'm sure it won't try getting a job that pays anything just to keep a roof over your head and food on the table.

    January 14, 2014 09:09 pm at 9:09 pm |
  24. Tracy

    This is ridiculous. It should have been passed in December. Now they are taking another vacation. From what? They just returned. Well, with the Mid-Term elections approaching this November and an approval rating of maybe 6%, let's see which Republicans will be re-elected. The Democrats might get their control back. Bad behavior. They don't care about the average person.

    January 14, 2014 09:11 pm at 9:11 pm |
  25. Jay Adams

    People are milking the unemployment system. If someone told you that they would give you a.million dollars but you had to get a job by the end of the week im sure you would embrace yourself to get a job. All free money does is cripple people and thats a fact.

    January 14, 2014 09:11 pm at 9:11 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23