Extending unemployment benefits stumbles in Senate
January 14th, 2014
04:32 PM ET
8 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. Barry Wilson

    They just got back from holiday vacation, now they are going on a week long recess???!!!

    January 15, 2014 09:10 am at 9:10 am |
  2. Pamela Smith

    This is really unfair with the unemployment issue. There was a comment made by a Republican in regards to individuals relying on unemployment benefits by depending on them and that they cause people to become lazy. He didn't actually say the word lazy, but I knew what he meant. Are we going to continue to allow the government to take care of millions of Americans that are collecting social security benefits along with their under the age of 18 children? I know individuals who have plotted to get this money. Maybe we can't prove that they really aren't disable, but the children are receiving benefits. Some of these individuals children are perfectly not disable. I know a parent who receives disability and has 4 kids under 18 who receives disability because their parent receives it. We won't talk about individuals who receive the benefits and are not disable at all. They are just very good actors. Even the bridge cards with the women who continue to have children and the government continues to provide for them. How about this, there are men receiving bridge cards, free health insurance, free dental insurance, etc. The welfare even have women that receive free health insurance even their children, they also receive money every 2 weeks, a bridge card, vouchers to buy furniture, and child care benefits, even vouchers to buy a car. Don't get me wrong some of these individuals really need assistance. Where did I go wrong? I have a Bachelors Degree, trying to work on a Master's Degree. I have had a job for 18 years and lost it in 2010. I collected unemployment for a year until a found another job that only lasted for 2 years. The first job, I went to work, did my job, and dealt with teenagers, until one day, the company decided that they wanted to go the cheap e way out and outsource their employees. The job I had for 2 years closed. I don't even want to talk about that one. Here I am waiting for the Republicans to make a decision on my life basically. Where did I go wrong? I should have had more kids and got on welfare so I could receive benefits. Here I am praying to god, everyday that it will get better for me some day. I am seeking employment faithfully. I am 50 years old, I hope someone hires me. Companies that I apply at probably look at my age and say, "oh she won't be here too long, she's 50 almost retiring age. Unemployment doesn't always last for an individual, but the ones on welfare and receiving disability can continue receiving the services as long as they need them. I need my teeth fixed, how can I? I don't have dental insurance. If I was on aid or receiving disability, I would have beautiful teeth. Again, I ask myself, where did I go wrong? I tried to do everything right, but it seems that doing wrong is in. Please republicans, extend the benefits.

    January 15, 2014 09:13 am at 9:13 am |
  3. WOMAN OF GOD

    In all this GOD has the final word ! I pray that the Republicans will stop being so HEAR TLESS ! We need this extension passed ASAP !

    January 15, 2014 09:14 am at 9:14 am |
  4. tom l

    It's become painfully obvious that the hardcore liberals on here, with their "ilk" comments, actually think they are better than conservatives. They think that just because they support democrats in every way, shape and form that this makes them superior to conservatives simply due to the "D" next to their name. They have no desire to understand the other side. They have no desire to listen to why a conservative feels the way they do (such as with long term unemployment, etc.) and feel that conservatives are literally bad people. All day, every day the "gang" talks as though they are better people and care about the poor or minorities more. I have news for you....you are no better, nor worse, than conservatives. You just have a different way that you feel these problems can be solved. Your venomous, vitriolic, sanctimonious comments are just that...full of venom, vitriol and sanctimony. Comments like repubs just hate the poor, women and blah blah blah is lame and childish. Conservatives don't hate the poor...they hate that there are poor people and are trying to do things to make them not poor (and the most important facet to get them out of the hole is to NOT rely on the govt). The big problem is the two parties...both repubs and dems. The goal of these politicians is to get more money and more power so they can be reelected. I don't understand how you can't see that. You think that dems actually care more about poor people? Really? Here's a newsflash. They don't. They may say they do but their actions don't speak to that. Just look how many millionaires there are in Congress now.

    January 15, 2014 09:19 am at 9:19 am |
  5. jeff

    Why don't we take the senators money away see how they like it and take their jobs away

    January 15, 2014 09:29 am at 9:29 am |
  6. Pat

    Unfair. I've worked over 30 years and was laid off after giving a healthcare industry 8 years. This was the first time in my working life I have been laid off! NEVER EVER HAVE I USED THE SYSTEM. Now time. Come on people extend the benefits - at least I'll have money to put gas in my car to go look for a JOB!

    January 15, 2014 09:29 am at 9:29 am |
  7. Fair is Fair

    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.
    --------–
    Hmmmm... it IS an interesting, outside-the-box idea. In fact, I'd go a step further and make them no-interest loans. Only instead of lump-sum chunks of money, make the payouts in installments. Make them non-dischargeable by bankruptcy and make them OPTIONAL. It has potential.

    January 15, 2014 09:33 am at 9:33 am |
  8. duke

    I do NOT believe my desperation for this bill to pass cant get more obvious than wasting my time replying to this post knowing full well i havr a better chance of getting carpaltunel(sp) than seeing my elected officials come together to aid myself and others in my predictament!!Im a fulky healthy outgoing,30yr old male..To make ends meet im looking to every job available,including a job a .deli!They say we d prefer to collect than work::UTTERLY UBSURD!!Do have any idea how painful it is to NOT work everyday??To get rejected all day then work on next days job list and to fail again.They say we just camp out on the checks..Who in their right mind would prefer a $300 check to a $1000 one(if i was working)?Unfortunately the saddest part is that i am single,and can barely get by;in fact,it took a $5 scratch off winner for me to squeeze out my phone bill last month..So my heart truly goes out to single parents in this ordeak.Lastly,enough about the blue and the red,its about our futures,our careers,and our livelihood!!!Its NOT about their political aspirstions or their legacy!Sadly we elected these government officials to fight for us,NOTAGAINST each other.In closing IM BEGGING for ya ll to come to an agreement,and soon..Before your"break"soon..I would lije tto witness the resilancy of these senators/congressionals...To see what they would do sfter the crushing blow of losing youur livlihood and see 1st hand just hiw frustrating and difficult just getting by has become..That being said,please.PLEASE!PLEASE!Instead of making great speeches that makeyou look good while knowing full well its an effort in vain,or worse,a political ;and do what WE ELECTED YOU to do.Let s not forget that!!These jobless bums,are the same people who vote you in for your jobs in November.So unless you want to be in this predictament come the fall,atleast help us with the 3 months we NEED to pay our necessities.

    January 15, 2014 09:33 am at 9:33 am |
  9. Georgie

    I hope the news post who voted against euc. So this way we can contact them and let the hear our voice. It must be nice that they can lay their heads down at nite, when now there r millions of people that won't be able to keep a roof or food on their table. They play like kids, if they don't get their way then we the people suffer, GROWN UP MORONS.

    January 15, 2014 09:35 am at 9:35 am |
  10. TYSPOCK

    Republicans are well known to use God as a shield, for me – I wonder what is behind that shield – could it be the devil !

    January 15, 2014 09:36 am at 9:36 am |
  11. Suzanne

    Would you please either publish or point out a link where we can see how senators voted on the two procedural votes? I need more information than simply saying Democrats are championing this while Republicans are to blame for the bill not going through. From my viewpoint, there is a lot of self interest in both parties and the Tea Party too. Everyone needs campaign contributions to get them elected into office.

    Social safety nets created by the Johnson administration at the outset of the War on Poverty in 1964 and broadened under Nixon, while not yet reaching the ultimate goal of poverty elimination in the States, have moved the needle significantly. It is estimated that our current 15% poverty rate would be 29% if those programs weren't in place.

    However, one has only to travel the backroads of this country or walk through our urban centers to see the bleakness that many people live under through no fault of their own. And I'm talking about veterans, families, children aging out of foster care, lots of young people, the elderly, people with mental illness. I do have to agree with all of the comments about how we send so much aid overseas but don't take care of American citizens so well.

    If we don't have the will to extend unemployment benefits, then we should have the will to stop shipping good paying jobs overseas where corporations are able to pay the prevailing rate of a few dollars a day to their new employees. We should have the will to create jobs here, meaningful jobs that pay more than a minimum wage. Show me a Democrat, Republican, Independent or even a Tea Partier who is doing this versus arguing and blocking progress on finding solutions, and I will vote for them.

    January 15, 2014 09:37 am at 9:37 am |
  12. jeff e

    I was using my unemployment checks to buy food and eat cause i refuse to receive food stamps even though i qualify. I needed this until spring when i go back to my seasonal employment. Im already basically homeless, and now jail seems like a last ditch effort. What is this country coming to when americans are better off living in prison? Its getting bad folks real bad. :-(

    January 15, 2014 09:38 am at 9:38 am |
  13. duke

    I do NOT believe my desperation for this bill to pass cant get more obvious than wasting my time replying to this post knowing full well i havr a better chance of getting carpaltunel(sp) than seeing my elected officials come together to aid myself and others in my predictament!!Im a fully healthy outgoing,30yr old male..To make ends meet im looking to every job available,including a job a .deli!They say we d prefer to collect than work::UTTERLY UBSURD!!Do have any idea how painful it is to NOT work everyday??To get rejected all day then work on next days job list and to fail again.They say we just camp out on the checks..Who in their right mind would prefer a $300 check to a $1000 one(if i was working)?Unfortunately the saddest part is that i am single,and can barely get by;in fact,it took a $5 scratch off winner for me to squeeze out my phone bill last month..So my heart truly goes out to single parents in this ordeak.Lastly,enough about the blue and the red,its about our futures,our careers,and our livelihood!!!Its NOT about their political aspirstions or their legacy!Sadly we elected these government officials to fight for us,NOTAGAINST each other.In closing IM BEGGING for ya ll to come to an agreement,and soon..Before your"break"soon..I would lije tto witness the resilancy of these senators/congressionals...To see what they would do sfter the crushing blow of losing youur livlihood and see 1st hand just hiw frustrating and difficult just getting by has become..That being said,please.PLEASE!PLEASE!Instead of making great speeches that makeyou look good while knowing full well its an effort in vain,or worse,a political ;and do what WE ELECTED YOU to do.Let s not forget that!!These jobless bums,are the same people who vote you in for your jobs in November.So unless you want to be in this predictament come the fall,atleast help us with the 3 months we NEED to pay our necessities.

    January 15, 2014 09:38 am at 9:38 am |
  14. Rudy NYC

    from the article:

    "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 ... ..."
    ---------------------------
    Republicans have already shown signs of what they're planning to use as wedge issues this year. They're planning on compaigning on at least two major topics through November. Of course, one will be 'Obamacare', which I think will only serve to paint them into a corner. The second issue will be a repeat of what worked in 2010: "jobs, jobs, jobs."

    The anti-Obamacare campaign will only backfire because Republicans have seriously overplayed that card. Have you noticed how they have turned down the volume of the maniacal criticism of the phrase, "If you like your healthcare plan, then you can keep it."? That's because the smart ones on the right have realized that criticizing the President for taking healthcare plans away from a large number of people will be nothing compared to repealling the ACA and taking it away from EVERYONE.

    The second wedge issue will be the economy and a revival of the 2010 battle cries over jobs. That ain't gonna work, either, because Democrats will remind people of 'The Great Sucker Punch' that Republicans across the country pulled on the American People back in 2010. The economy had been struggling, but it was slowly gaining strength in spurts. Republicans promised jobs creation. Once elected the Republicans shifted to an agenda of "radical right wing social engineering" and completely forgot all about jobs. Some had even denied campaigning on jobs, claiming their social agenda is what they had ran on.

    That's what I see in the tea leaves, folks. Republicans think they have found two major wedge issues that will be a winning formula in 2014. It's the same one they used back in 2010. I find it curious just how divisive the phrase "wedge issue" sounds, but that's the reality of it. It's even more curious how Republicans blame Democrats as being divisive, actually seek out, or even manufacture, most all of the divisive issues in the national conversation.

    January 15, 2014 09:40 am at 9:40 am |
  15. Unemployed

    I can assure you there are many Americans like my husband that lost his job due to economic downturn and has been looking for over 6 months every day. This extension for us means being able to stay in our home.. Without it we will surely lose our home. I pray everyday that he will just get a phone call for an interview.

    January 15, 2014 09:41 am at 9:41 am |
  16. Mr. L

    Harry Reid needs to care about people and do his job and stop screwing around with the welfare of people in the United Stated in need of there unemployment benefits !
    Let us put him on unemployment and cut it off and let him see how it fells ,. We voted him in !

    January 15, 2014 09:43 am at 9:43 am |
  17. george glassford

    over a million people are going with out money this week, most of them have worked a long time paying taxes
    Mr reed stop playing games with peoples lives

    January 15, 2014 09:43 am at 9:43 am |
  18. geno

    Wait till its time to vote. We the people will have the last laugh. ?

    January 15, 2014 09:44 am at 9:44 am |
  19. BenWorkingAllMyLifeChgo

    I am a SF 63 years old, worked past 49 years, UC benefits stopped, home in foreclosure, no health or life insurance, broken hearted, holding on to my faith that the God I serve has not and will not forsake me...He appointed those who lead our nations...It is the role of the government to provide, serve and protect it's people..Are we the unemployed, homeless, sick, afflicted, young and old not those people? Shame on each one of you intellectual men and women for abusing your elected positions in such a manner to cause such injustice and undue stress upon the "People" of this Great Nation...Yet I forgive you for you truly know not what you do...Yet,I pray nothing but peace an healing unto our lands.

    January 15, 2014 09:45 am at 9:45 am |
  20. dotheflippin'math

    If you give poor people money, they spend it, helping the economy. Give it to the rich, and they hoard it, helping only the rich get richer. The only thing that trickles down is poverty.

    January 15, 2014 09:49 am at 9:49 am |
  21. plasticshoe

    Its a shame that members of congress can't be outsourced as easily as our jobs are outsourced, I understand that their going on vacation again. I certainly hope that their psych tested, i.q. tested and drug tested like I was for my last five low paying slave labor jobs.

    January 15, 2014 09:50 am at 9:50 am |
  22. nicci

    The Gov won't help the American people but will send 400million to Syria. That's backwards as ever

    January 15, 2014 09:58 am at 9:58 am |
  23. Rudy NYC

    I guess the message from Republicans is crystal clear. "You can't have your benefits and keep them, too."

    January 15, 2014 10:00 am at 10:00 am |
  24. Sherie

    It's hard to type this as the tears run down my face. I'm at wits end and don't know what to do. No family or friends to lean on; I can't imagine being homeless but that's where I'm headed. I've used all my savings trying to keep my head above water and without the unemployment extension I WILL go under. I've interviewed and interviewed and interviewed to no avail. Being over 50 doesn't help, so what's my plan????? As one person writes; "Where did I go wrong?" As I see it now, pre-plan my demise sounds good. Boy would I like to be on the Senate floor right now!

    January 15, 2014 10:03 am at 10:03 am |
  25. Name Joan Dvorak

    Why is the government taking a recess? Did they not just come back from a break for the holidays? How heartless for them to just leave all of these people with no way to support their families till they come back from break! It's just plain cruel!!!

    January 15, 2014 10:03 am at 10:03 am |
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