Extending unemployment benefits stumbles in Senate
January 14th, 2014
04:32 PM ET
11 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. The goverment doesn't care

    Amazing they just came back from break and now they are going on break for 11 days again!..are u serious..why would they care to pass a new euc? almost have of them are millionaires and the others are well off they dont have to worry about how they're going to feed thier families so feeding ours is not a priority for them because they cannot relate to what we are going thru..it amazes me that people still vote for these people..so thank you my beloved government while ur enjoying ur vacation again on our dollar i will be here waiting in the dark (since i cant pay to keep the light on) for u to get back to no work..is there any way any of u so called politicians call my landlord or edison and ask them to wait for u to get ur act togheter so they can turn the light back on? please?..

    January 15, 2014 12:59 am at 12:59 am |
  2. Scott

    Harry can't even say yes when Republicans are giving him everything. I think Democrats are out of sorts because Republicans don't want to shut down the government. It leaves them with only Obamacare to campaign on. They will get most votes of those Americans who got free or cheaper healthcare insurance. They should be very concerned about the votes of Americans that are seeing an increase in the cost of their health insurance. An they should be very concerned that Americans get high quality health care as a result of all this.

    January 15, 2014 01:05 am at 1:05 am |
  3. Scott

    Medicaids are seeing Emergency Rooms at a 40% higher rate now than before Obamacare expansion. Harry and his Senate majority really should work on this if he wants to retain Medicaids as voters for democrats.

    January 15, 2014 01:09 am at 1:09 am |
  4. Scott

    Republicans and Democrats want extension of unemployment benefits for long term recipients. Harry Reid needs to provide the appropriate leadership so that this can happen. Is Harry losing it?

    January 15, 2014 01:11 am at 1:11 am |
  5. redneck country girl

    why put us americans on the back burner when came time to vote for you all we didn,t put you on the back burner it,s not fair we have familys we r no different from us american we stand up for you when time vote Do the same for us STAND UP take charge

    January 15, 2014 01:23 am at 1:23 am |
  6. Name

    Why do they get a weeklong recess ? They just had a Christmas vacation ! makes no sense to me .

    January 15, 2014 01:37 am at 1:37 am |
  7. Wojtan

    Anyone who looks down on another man for not having what he has and decrees that its because there lazy are demons. They have no soul. Not everyone can prosper richly in this world for those who do it is there responsibility to help their people. If they work for you you should be working for them. Pay them a good wage and help the disadvantaged help complete the social contract.

    January 15, 2014 01:37 am at 1:37 am |
  8. Max

    This current US government is the worst in American history. And this is just because a newer line of $ucking Republicans somehow got their seats (who those dumb rednecks who voted for these rich morons ??). Ofcourse the corporate rich RepubliCons don't care for jobless people of this country ! This is the most hypocritical, filthy and criminal government to the date. Make sure you vote right next time, an unemployed naive voter who lost his job and your elected candidate does not care for you.

    January 15, 2014 01:42 am at 1:42 am |
  9. Reco

    This is war. I have
    Only voted once in my entire life. If
    The the benefits are
    Not extended, I will
    Vote for everything.
    I will not stop voting until every Republican is out of office. They will all be gone like the Reptiles before the ice age. When I'm done you will look up the word Republican in the dictionary and it will say they are no longer here, gone forever, just like the DoDo bird. So, I say to you."Bring It, Let's get ready to Rumble!!!"

    January 15, 2014 01:58 am at 1:58 am |
  10. Stunned

    I am sick of people saying how those who are receiving unemployment benefits are lazy. I was laid off just 6 months ago I've had 2 interviews with no luck and it's weird because those jobs are still posted on the company's website. My Mom is now paying her rent and mine. I apply to jobs daily, change my resume frequently only to receive the same response, "Your skills are impressive but we decided to pursue other candidates." I would love to have my old job back but unfortunately it's gone forever. I have a child with no way of getting her to preschool because I have no money for gas. Food is low but thankfully I stocked up on oatmeal which is what we've been eating since the New Year unless my Mom cooks and brings it to us. I feel horrible. And I am trying. McDonald's and other low paying jobs will not hire someone with a Bachelor's degree. Some people will never understand until they are faced with being unemployed. And how did I find out I was being laid off? It popped up on my director's calendar on a Monday and I was scheduled to be laid off that Thursday and since I found out they wanted to lay me off early. Dems and Repubs suck.

    January 15, 2014 02:20 am at 2:20 am |
  11. No bueno

    It says they have another break??? They just came back from a break. I'm unemployed and I don't get breaks! My benefits ran out December 28th, I'm having a tough time making my truck payment. We don't have time for breaks. How about some action!!! Oh yeah I forgot a report just came out that said most people in the government are millionaires. They don't have money problems.... Real world problems...

    January 15, 2014 02:23 am at 2:23 am |
  12. SilencedMajority

    This is not good, not good at all. So many of us that were on unemployment, trying so hard day in and day out, were barely scooting by to have food and a roof over our heads (even in my position of being 28, educated and having a bachelor's degree, I have been out of work close to a year now). Now, we don't even have that... Just don't even know what to say. They don't care how hopeless this has made us all in just over 2 weeks time. Many of us were already there before the cut. Hate to say it, but bet suicide numbers rise spike soon too

    January 15, 2014 02:27 am at 2:27 am |
  13. Pure honesty..

    It really is time to get Rid of the old GOP jug heads of ancient times past... Mitch McConnell, Rand Paul, Dan Coats and for the love of everything holy John Boehner.. They hide behind conservative ideals but are in fact one of the main reasons this country is royally screwed up. Are the baby boomers so out of touch and blinded by fear they keep relecting these horribly poor so called leaders. Where was all this concern when George W. Was spending trillions of dollars on foolish, pointless wars and gas is still $4 gal. They drove the country to the brink, literally.. #GOHWTBS

    January 15, 2014 02:38 am at 2:38 am |
  14. Pat

    I had a interview on yesterday. I reallyhope that I get the job because I need to pay my bills. I am waiting to receive my UB but waiting on Republicans/Democrat. I am trusting God because he is in control of my benefits. Please don't trust man because they will fail you every time. Trust God He will never fail you!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    January 15, 2014 02:50 am at 2:50 am |
  15. l chris voss

    I don't why you can't find common ground on the extended unemployment, but can help people over sea's right away. It'like the political parties don't want to help there own at home. We the American people should be # 1 then others. You the political powers get you even when you government shut down. Forgot your pay see how you like it. Stop the madness.....

    January 15, 2014 03:47 am at 3:47 am |
  16. Joshua pulla

    I just got out of military and having a hard time finding work my 26 week benefits expired and i have no clue what i am going to do to feed my family we have these politicians maken decisions for us that affect us but they dont care because there all rich and dont know what it means to struggle they should take a budget cut from there high salaries

    January 15, 2014 03:52 am at 3:52 am |
  17. @RI_Roger

    Nobody is saying long term unemployed people are lazy or their benefits extended. We just want it paid for with today's dollars not money borrowed from the future. This administration always finds a way to secure funding for foreign aid or green energy start-ups; why can't they find money to provide a safety net for unfortunate Americans. Find the money today and the president signs the bill within 48 hours.

    January 15, 2014 06:24 am at 6:24 am |
  18. james

    Seems to me that the blame should go on the democrats since they have control .

    January 15, 2014 06:54 am at 6:54 am |
  19. Rob

    Both The Dems and the GOP are at fault here. As usual they are taking an issue and trying to score political points at the expense of the people. Reid is running the Senate like you'd expect from a punch drunk ex boxer with no intelligence. Boehner is over his head in Congress and can't get anything done their either. Should unemployment be extended. Absolutely! Should it be paid for now? Of course if possible. Can that be done? ? Sure. Eliminate even a small amount of government waste. Can this group of worthless politicians get it done. Doubt it. It is time to fire this bunch of people and hire true Public Servants with the BRAINS and Desire to work FOR the people and not for themselves and their lust for power

    January 15, 2014 06:55 am at 6:55 am |
  20. dotheflippin'math

    Republicans don't care about poor people, or even the middle class. Actions will always speak louder than words. To blame the people whose jobs they sold overseas for being unemployed is beyond disgusting. TP, you make we want to puke! Biggest hypocrites on the planet. You disgust me.

    January 15, 2014 06:57 am at 6:57 am |
  21. Minnie Mouse

    The problems starts with our government because people wouldn't be in these situations if you wouldn't" do the unemployment extensions. Eveyone just has to stop being so picky and especially when you have no income. I have lost a job before and I couldn't find anything within 26 weeks so I chose to go to college. I went to school from 8 to noon 5 days a week and took any job I could just to keep my family going. For the people who say there are not jobs that will work around your school schedule, there are plenty of them. I worked at McDonalds, Day Cares, Sears, Toys R Us ect at 40 yrs old practically living out of my care for nearly 2 years between work and school. I put in over 50 hours a week between work and school.

    You can't blame the government for why you can't find work. Just take a job that pays less until you find something better and even if it's less hours this will still give you the time to find a better job.

    January 15, 2014 06:59 am at 6:59 am |
  22. loyalright

    Outside Obama, Harry Reid is the most evil man alive. He never made an offer to pay for the extension. When will liberals figure it out that these benefits are not free. It amazes me how un-American these Democrats in the Senate have become. With so much waste in our government, there are many avenues to find the funds to extend UI for three months. Come on liberals, you can do better.

    January 15, 2014 07:15 am at 7:15 am |
  23. jimv

    Anybody with money that wants to control a couple of million votes could probably get that done today :)

    January 15, 2014 07:20 am at 7:20 am |
  24. Tell it like it is.

    Once again Reid is running the Senate to benefit Democrats, not the people, that is the problem today Reublicans offer comoon sense solutions but the Democrats want to play politics with people. Democrats or OBama do not care about the people of this country, only themselves. The sooner people realize this, the sooner this country can get better.

    January 15, 2014 07:21 am at 7:21 am |
  25. JFD

    I'm both offended and ticked off at people who say that the long the long term unemployed don't want to find a job. I'm 53 years old and have worked since I was 13 years old. The last job I had for 23 years and was laid off in August of 2012 so I worked for this company for almost half my life. I have literally sent out thousands of resume's, networked with colleague's, visited employment agencies etc.

    I'm not trying to say that there aren't people who are abusing the system, but the vast majority would love to find a good job rather than sit home watching Jerry Springer.

    January 15, 2014 07:22 am at 7:22 am |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23