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. Disappointed

    I am so disappointed in Congress. they can spend billions on other countries, but when their own fellow Americans need help severely, they turn their heads. It would be nice to be a millionaire like our congressmen and women and not have to worry about having a roof over their heads in three weeks and having to sleep god knows where. I have worked since I was 13 years old. I was unfortunately laid off this last May. I have had 3 job interviews, none of which panned out into a job placement and have put in for at least 3 to 4 jobs a day since being laid off. I challenge all of congress to go without a paycheck for 2 weeks....even three, being middle class and then see what your vote would be?

    January 14, 2014 09:15 pm at 9:15 pm |
  2. Thomas

    Why dose Ted Cruz hate America ?

    January 14, 2014 09:21 pm at 9:21 pm |
  3. carl williams

    They talking about people getting ssi checks and unemployment i had to give up my job due to my disability i only get 801.00 a month my is 645.00 plus i got four kids you tell me how im suppose to live or what my leaders are really saying carl it not my fault you really can't walk

    January 14, 2014 09:31 pm at 9:31 pm |
  4. OustThemAll

    The 2 party system is dead. It no longer serves the people and serves only the greedy politicians. Stop affiliating yourself with either party, they ARE NOT looking out for our country's interest! Im voting all incumbants out next election and I pray America wakes up to the scam that is our government. Sad!

    January 14, 2014 09:32 pm at 9:32 pm |
  5. Chef

    Send billions to egyprb and what for the Americans.

    January 14, 2014 09:38 pm at 9:38 pm |
  6. Whatever

    What? The GOP proposal would hurt the very same people the bill is trying to help? Wow. How was the GOP seen through so quickly?

    January 14, 2014 09:38 pm at 9:38 pm |
  7. Kris

    Thanks to the republicans my utilities will be turned off at the end of this month, while they continue to play their stupid games. I too will be voting straight democrat in this coming election.

    January 14, 2014 09:58 pm at 9:58 pm |
  8. jim

    Y should people go to work when they get unemployment all the time

    January 14, 2014 10:06 pm at 10:06 pm |
  9. Amanda

    What a joke!!!! No jobs.. no money... keep the rich, rich and send them in more vacations!

    January 14, 2014 10:08 pm at 10:08 pm |
  10. Mgallice

    I say we put all the people voting against the extensions out and see how they like to be out of a job, but we also vote to take away their benefits to pay for the extensions....

    January 14, 2014 10:12 pm at 10:12 pm |
  11. Patti

    I am so glad that the issue of my family having food and heat this winter takes a back burner to them getting a paid week of recess. Wow our process is so promising for the future.

    January 14, 2014 10:16 pm at 10:16 pm |
  12. enough already

    It’s a shame to see every American that is currently unemployed become just another topic that gets pushed into the back burner. I am 42 yrs old and have been unemployed since May 2013. I have submitted my resume to over 300 companies with a feedback of “I am over qualified”. Even after down grading my resume I have received the same reply. I am pretty sure I am not the only one receiving this reply from prospect employers. It has been very difficult to maintain my sanity during this ordeal while at the same time assuring my family of 3 that everything will be fine. If all the parties need ideas on how to fund the extension try the following: STOP DOUBLE DIPPING! Stop taking a salary of 100K + and receive a pension of 200k + at the same time. One should not be allowed to do this during this time of restructure and balancing the nation’s debt. Your salaries and pensions come from us Americans that have worked and contributed into our government through our high taxes. I would purpose a salary of 30k and pension payout when retired. At this pay grade you can truly understand what we middle class Americans go through when we have to live check to check. Another idea is to take the pensions of all government officials that have been prosecuted and found guilty for crimes committed during their terms. There is the money that you are trying to find to pay for the extension. Sometimes I find it funny that government officials still think we the people are stupid.

    January 14, 2014 10:19 pm at 10:19 pm |
  13. penguin

    Congress needs to create good paying jobs- jobs that pay at least 35K a year

    January 14, 2014 10:40 pm at 10:40 pm |
  14. deano

    GREEDY PIGS !!!!!!!! Any Candidate that voted against EUC benefits, will go down in the upcoming election...... I urge anyone and everyone to vote against any greedy Fat Cat Politician that cut off these benefits to these poor Americans....

    Send money overseas !!!! Take another recess !!!! You Greedy Pigs !!!! You congressman should be ashamed of yourselves....

    January 14, 2014 11:04 pm at 11:04 pm |
  15. sammy750

    Five times Sen. McConnell, Speaker Boehner and 80 other Republicans passed an extended unemployment bills under G. Bush. During that time the Debt was the highest ever and unemployment was not half what it is now. Yet now the Republican gang, since they hate Obama will NOT pass a new extension. They want to keep the people in poverty. McConnell the senile old man, trying to keep his job will vote NAY on all bills. This is the agenda of the Republicans, we hate Black Obama so we vote NAY to punish him.

    January 14, 2014 11:06 pm at 11:06 pm |
  16. davey havok

    The Dems seem to be making us think they really want this passed, but I get the feeling they could care less. They are just putting on a show, and are trying to make themselves look like the good guys...If they really cared about the people and how much we really need this extension they would be more accepting and willing to bend... They need to learn how to Work together!!! It is not just some petty argument, "debate". A name calling child's game if you will. their decisions will directly affect WE THE PEOPLE! Your bother, your sister, your mother and father, your neighbor, your friends! Peoples lives are at stake,

    THERE IS NO WAR, BUT CLASS WAR!!! It has always been this way.... the poor trying to live a simple ,healthy, and free life while the rich keep coming up ever more complicated ways to take advantage of simple folk like us. Everything is so much simpler if we forget about these petty high school clicks we call dems and repubs! I don't care about what you believe, I care about you! Let's see our humanity before we see our differences. Let us remember we are in this together and we need each other if we are going to prevail through these dark times.

    WE HAVE THE POWER! THEY WORK FOR US! if they do not live up to our standards let us fire them! let these politicians feel what it is like to lose their jobs and struggle to get by like we (repubs, dems and everything in between) have for so long.

    Let us face it the middle class is getting terrifyingly smaller every day and soon we will begin to forget these childish high school political clicks we affiliate with and wake up one day to see the one and only thing we all have in common.....We are all POOR!
    So the question then is.... Whose side are you on?

    January 14, 2014 11:15 pm at 11:15 pm |
  17. davey havok

    NO WAR BUT CLASS WAR!!! Whose side are you on?.... the rich or the poor?

    January 14, 2014 11:16 pm at 11:16 pm |
  18. Dave

    I have also tried to find work and it isnt for a lack of trying. I am going back to school and changing type of work I did. Not having unemployment will make it harder then it has to be. These over educated politicions dont have a clue what the real world is like. I am a registered voter and plan to use my vote to get rid of some people in washington. I know its just one vote but if everyone who is tired of washington votes we can make a change for the better

    January 14, 2014 11:21 pm at 11:21 pm |
  19. Debster

    Hey you fellow 1.3 million who ate getting screwed by the government, they are sending us a clear message. They don't care or represent use and we should follow their example and lead a life of crime! Fraud, embezzlement, theft, are our friends.

    January 14, 2014 11:35 pm at 11:35 pm |
  20. Brenda

    Oh yes – Congress hammered us "lazy" people on unemployment. Do they forget who pays their outrageous salaries – must be us lazy tax payers. In case the forgot, meager unemployment is a taxable income. We do not get the tax free perks that they receive. It is so frustrating to watch them argue over who sad what when and accomplish nothing. Guess it is more important to spend time investigating traffic flow over a bridge in New Jersey than helping us millions who do not have a job. Just in case you missed it, Congress will be taking another week long recess – REALLY?????, they just had 3 weeks off. Thank you so much Congress for taking care of us little folks. How about when we have cold houses and our table lacks food, that we come to your house? After all we will be homeless next and we will have too much to qualify for any help. The illegals will have been given help first. What a great country we live in.

    January 14, 2014 11:45 pm at 11:45 pm |
  21. John

    One of the reason congress is getting away with this incompetency is because CNN has Justin Beiber as the headlining news tonight! After the republicans filibustered the extension – the story was no where to be found on CNN.com or on CNN. This isn't just a matter of whether or not to extend benefits it needs to be about the alarming cut off. They can't just stop payments like that without warning. These 1.5 million people have families to feed – making it more like 4 million people being affected tonight. They would need notice to apply for welfare and food stamps at the very least. So where is CNN? At justin Beibers house cause he threw eggs at his neighbors? Scary

    January 15, 2014 12:01 am at 12:01 am |
  22. 817stp

    I pray for a change i lost my job after hurricane sandy. I lost everything! I was forced to relocate and have been applying to jobs for over a year now. Unemployment feeds me and shelters me (rooming) while you all play chutes and ladders with the struggling americans I hope u fund homeless shelters bc they will be filling up fast! Sincerely hungry and afraid

    January 15, 2014 12:05 am at 12:05 am |
  23. Daniel

    @NoMas

    You do know that the Republicans were the ones filibustering the bill right? If it were a simple majority vote it would've passed. Clarify what you mean because it doesn't make sense to me. Also, to everyone else you have no idea what it feels like to be unemployed right now. The labor market is terrible. The long term unemployment rate is double what it was compared to every other time it was cut off, in its entire history of existence. We need an extension asap or soon we'll have a large and and angry homeless population. I've worked every single week of my working life, which for me started at 14 and I even worked on a farm from 12-14. I want to work. However, no one is hiring even with my college education. I need to survive however. Have some compassion and imagine being let go from your job and then competing for jobs at McDonald's and being rejected because so many people applied. I have taken 9 advanced placement courses through high school and did well in college. I'm no fool. I am quite intelligent and am very sociable. I will get this message out. Stop the dysfunction and help the citizens you were elected to represent or we will get someone into office who will.

    January 15, 2014 12:10 am at 12:10 am |
  24. cry cry cry

    Anyone who voted for Obama that ran out of their benefits I cannot feel sorry for. You elected an idiot, that knows nothing about creating jobs or running an economy. 5 years in, no jobs, millions on welfare, and too many people collecting unemployment. How is that the republicans fault? Swallow your pride and get a fast food job if you have to. Democrat leaders want their voters to be dependent on the Gov't, that is how they control and manipulate you. Yet history has proven, socialism has never worked. I love how people on here have enough money to pay their cell phone bill or internet bill each month, but not enough money to eat.

    January 15, 2014 12:12 am at 12:12 am |
  25. maggie

    here's an idea; for the same amount of money the gov. pays out in unemployment it could just employ people

    January 15, 2014 12:22 am at 12:22 am |
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