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. be real

    the first post from Nicole, WOW. We all wish we can make as much as we did but that is not going to happen. She goes to school for 20 hrs. a week, there are 168 hrs. in a week. How about working some of the 148hrs your not going to school. Work 2 part time jobs or 3. She should get real with herself and take what she can get.

    January 15, 2014 07:29 am at 7:29 am |
  2. gene

    What will Republicans do if they had wait in line for a pay check? They get benefits for life, they don't care about people who can't put money in the Republican party pocket. I wish they could live without a job or the benefits they get for a year or three. to see how it feel I'm not a lazy man I need job but no job out there for a 61 year old black man.

    January 15, 2014 07:42 am at 7:42 am |
  3. SMITVICT

    Democrats agree to a compromise then after it passes and is signed into law want to add spending that will be offset in 10 years. Then complain when republicans cry foul. And the media eats it up.

    January 15, 2014 07:46 am at 7:46 am |
  4. SAD!!

    It is sad that our country is all for giving millions an billions of dollars to other countries yet they will let their own people suffer!! People aren't unemployed because they want to be ! I am a single mother an this is the 1st time I have ever had to draw unemployment an I have only drawn it for the 26 weeks an no more! It is sad that the government wants to prolong something thats so important!! Why take money an I mean lots of money an send to other countries yet you aren't willing to take care of your own country!! Maybe it will take one of you to be unemployed an no where to turn an no way to support your family then maybe you will know what it feels like to have no HELP!!!! It is sad people need to make sure we remember this when election time rolls in!!

    January 15, 2014 07:53 am at 7:53 am |
  5. GOP = Greed Over People

    Bad optics for the GOP in an election years.

    Cutting off aid to the unemployed when statistics still show 3 folks per job opening, is not going to play well in November.

    Especially, since polls show 60% of Americans favor the extension.

    January 15, 2014 07:56 am at 7:56 am |
  6. SESZOO

    We need to help out the people for sure ,But just how long is long enough ? 1 year ,2 years , forever if no job falls their way ? And the big question is Just Where is this money coming from ? The rest of us that are still working ? Alot of people blame republicans ,but they aren't the only ones in Washington ,It's all of them and most of them want nothing to do except divide the American people even more . Take the money from Foreign aid and Wall street and decide the Immigration Bills first so the people on Unemployment Know just where they stand with our lawmakers when it comes to more people competeing for the jobs there are. The people need help for sure ,but the well is just about dry for the rest of us.

    January 15, 2014 08:04 am at 8:04 am |
  7. GOP = Greed Over People

    Seems "paygo" never was on the table when the GOP House temper tantrum government shut down, cost 24 billion, but now that real people who will become both hungry and homeless, all 1.3 million of them, the GOP insist on "paying" for the extension.

    The GOP "chri$tians" have never "walked in the footsteps of Jesus", but now, they are not even on the same beach!

    January 15, 2014 08:08 am at 8:08 am |
  8. Tera

    People on unemployment are not lazy. In order to receive it, people HAVE to work. For Congress to bicker over petty issues and hold our unemployment hostage is appalling. I have worked my entire adult life and now you are taking away my ONLY source of income? How dare you...! I have 3 children that rely on me and that I have supported for the last 18 years without foodstamps, cash assistance or public aid. This is despicable! I am ashamed to say I'm a citizen of the US. Shame on you Washington DC.

    January 15, 2014 08:16 am at 8:16 am |
  9. GOP = Greed Over People

    To all mouthing off about Reid's leadership, blah, blah blah, Dems do not have a super majority and the GOP threatened to filibuster the bill so, it takes a super majority vote of 60 to move the bill forward.

    No Republicans crossed the aisle to vote to move the bill forward.

    The resultant loss, can only be placed right at the feet of the GOP.

    January 15, 2014 08:18 am at 8:18 am |
  10. Anonymous

    the extension talks are on the back burner, so they can argue and not come to an agreement on other important issues,before they take time off next week. In the real world if you cannot perform your job you get replaced. Maybe we could use their wages for this term to help out.

    January 15, 2014 08:20 am at 8:20 am |
  11. June

    Senate was elected to help people not hurt us. You give more money and aide to foreign governments than helping out your own country. Maybe it's time you all took a pay cut, let's say no member of congress and earn more than 50 thousand a year and no member of the house can earn more than 30 thousand a year. See if you can survive, you would still be making more than us working class people out here. By the way since you can not seem to work together I will be homeless in February and as of last week I am unable to buy food or gas, by the way I am diabetic, so thank you all lousy self centered senators for not doing your job. I hope you get voted out, and for our so called ones from ga we are upset with you.

    January 15, 2014 08:26 am at 8:26 am |
  12. Lynda/Minnesota

    @Silence DoGood: "Pride in ignorance."

    Shocking, I know. Might I just carry your comment a step further to "WILLFUL pride in ignorance"? I've found throughout my years that those who are celebrating this are doing so either from willful ignorance or the security of their mommy's basement (take your pick) and are generally the same folks who when they themselves become the victim shout "foul" the loudest.

    What they haven't done is "built it themselves" or "picked themselves up by their bootstraps" thus they actually have no idea what they are talking about ... no matter the talking points they try so hard to adapt their "life history" to.

    January 15, 2014 08:31 am at 8:31 am |
  13. Steve

    If we keep extending benefits we will keep adding to the country's debt problem. Time to turn off the money faucet and get a job. I would be willing to extend benefits to those who are still actively seeking employment but for the ones who have given up and are just living off of the system I have no sympathy for them.

    January 15, 2014 08:34 am at 8:34 am |
  14. Name

    I'm educated, I have great skills, far from lazy, got laid off from a job I was at 11.5 years. I started working when I was 13 and I'm now 41. I've applied to hundreds of jobs, have barely gotten an interview, let alone an offer. How am I supposed to keep looking for a job when I don't know how I am going to pay rent or eat or afford the medications I need to live?!?!?

    January 15, 2014 08:38 am at 8:38 am |
  15. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    Instead of Unemployment benefit, how about giving them a loan so they can repay back in installment when they find a job
    -------------------------------------------------
    I actually like that idea,the only thing is that unemployment benefits were paid for by the employers.
    But once those benefits run out I think it would be a good idea to give them a lump sum loan that would be repayable in easy installments with a low interest rate once they found employment.
    Much like a student loan would be repaid and with the same type of forbearance and priority.

    January 15, 2014 08:41 am at 8:41 am |
  16. Collins

    Its simply wrong not to extend unemployment! The media can focus on one man, Christie but not on the 1.7 million people who will no longer receive unemployment benefits. We can send people to fight wars and refuse to fight the war of poverty and unemployment on our home front. There are some of us who are unemployed not by choice. We are receiving benefits because we were employed, which equals work. This was temporary not a lifetime. Those of you who sit on the mountain top-you will fall from GRACE and may the Lord have Mercy on You! Everything that goes up must come down....

    January 15, 2014 08:42 am at 8:42 am |
  17. Mike

    If the unemployment benefits are paid for go right ahead and extend them otherwise don't do it!

    January 15, 2014 08:45 am at 8:45 am |
  18. sgksdfklgjfdkg

    I know several folks who are unable to find work and the loss of these benefits has been devastating. If I were in their shoes, I would VOTE OUT any person in congress who voted against the extension of benefits and NOT VOTE for any member of the political party mainly responsible for not wanting to extend the benefits.

    What is also upsetting is that during the government shutdown, members of Congress still received their large paychecks, while other hardworking federal employees earning much less received no pay and struggled with bills. The law should be amended that if there is a government shutdown, members of Congress should also receive NO PAY until they come to the agreement which reopens the government. And, they should not receive ANY retroactive salary for the pay they lost during the shutdown.

    January 15, 2014 08:48 am at 8:48 am |
  19. Erica

    My son suffered a massive stroke while taking care of him I became very sick went out on Loa. I was fired shortly after I returned to work. I am 54yrs old having challenges getting work. I have already lost my vehicle. People like need this extension. This is not just a financial crisis but emotional as well. The people making decisions have much wealth they need to stop playing the racial standoff. They will never understand my situation because they do not live in my world. They would be able to afford the best care for their child . I guess they would love to see the streets flooded with thousands of new homeless people

    January 15, 2014 08:52 am at 8:52 am |
  20. CALVIN DAVIS

    So you actually ridicule your fellow Americana and go on to accuse them of feeling entitled. The stuff of which you are made of is exactly what have destroyed empires. Not one mention that illegals from all over the world receive preferable treatment plus at the expense of the same American Citizens that your sell-out, treasonous asteroids are attaching. Hey, silly you are only repeating what the corrupted sold-out, cooperate-banking boot licking politians have convinced your feeble little mind can conceive. Who's home is it? To receive unemployment means that an individual has "worked" and is a authentic American citizen. Stop demeaning your fellow Citizen, plus you do not know their history. They could have worked a life time or many years of dedicated tax-paying service. When the same government bodies sends trillions of dollar to each corner of the world to rebuild the infrastructures, technologies and vastly improve their standard of living. You remain mum. Stop being such a phony – playing all humane, caring, loving and unbiased. BUT > at the same time hating and working over-time to belittle and deny your on fellows (the same people that will fight on your side and have died and will die for YOU.) Wake-UP.

    January 15, 2014 08:55 am at 8:55 am |
  21. Lynda/Minnesota

    @ WOW!

    "Thank you for telling the people that truly earned the unemployment to starve."

    Quite "christian" of them, eh? Chalk it up to righteous indignation. The more "righteous" they become the greater their indignation against their fellow citizens.

    There must be a new version of the Gospels being offered in Churches throughout America that I have yet to read.

    January 15, 2014 08:58 am at 8:58 am |
  22. DisappointedintheGovermentWenowhave

    I am 39 years old and have been working all my life since i was 18. Just this past summer i was let go from my job and for the first time in my life i started collecting my benefits. Now that i need federal help they are cut off since Dec. I never asked for any help and I still look for work every week since June. About 6 months now, for alot of people in Congress to say we are asking for this benefit extension just to be lazy and make us not motivated to work is an insult. We are not asking for welfare checks or stamps. Just aid from our Government while we continue to look for work so we dont get thrown out of our house and feed our kids. I am a proud american and this is making me just ashamed to know how easy it is for congress to give out money to foreign countries and so hard to help their own people who put them in their seats to begin with. All they are doing is trying to show each other who has the upper hand with their bickering while we the people are struggling.

    January 15, 2014 08:58 am at 8:58 am |
  23. RaeA

    I guess some don't know that unemployment benefits be they regular or extended are for people who have WORKED and paid taxes into the syste. No one is giving them anything that they are not deserved of. If they haven't been able to secure employment past the regular UK benefits and still need of help, how does that make them lazy? Jobs are not in abundance right now and with more college graduates searching as well as more people having to work well past what was once the retirement age because they can't afford to not work jobs are really not available to just go out and get. If you are fortunate and blessed to be employed then count your blessings but understand that you could be out of a job at any time going forward even if you own your business it could crumble in this economy. No one is secure so please don't point fingers and speak harshly about anyone who is in need. You and or your loved ones can always be next

    January 15, 2014 09:00 am at 9:00 am |
  24. Lisa

    My sentiments are the same as everyone else waiting for this bill to get passed. People need to take note of who and how those in congress are voting for certain issues. We and our families and extended families are a million plus strong. Please, when it is time to VOTE in elections, we need to bond together and vote them out of office. We do have a voice and we must should them who their bosses are. Let's vote them out of office folks!

    January 15, 2014 09:01 am at 9:01 am |
  25. Christian

    I don't understand why someone would think that people on unemployment would rather get less than 50% of what they used to get paid and stay like that on purpose. Jay Adams seems very ignorant to our situation, but he probably is part of the upper class that rather keep oppressing the working class while they're having their bank accounts being loaded with money from lobbyist in congress looking at their own personal gain.

    January 15, 2014 09:07 am at 9:07 am |
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