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. Mitch

    These are troubling times. Revolutionary times. When a government lets people starve while packing their bags for a vacation. We as a country must come together now. Start paying attention. If tour child is starving you find food by ehayever means. You dont argue about it gor weeks and then take a vacation!! Obe of our great forefathers said it best; "when the government fears the people its called freedom. When the people fear the government its called tyrrany". Wake up america.

    January 15, 2014 10:13 am at 10:13 am |
  2. Willie Boy Williamson

    It's no longer a case of Republicans or Democrats. It's Washington that's to blame. Both parties have agendas bent on destroying America. Democrats are destroying with debts our great grand kids will be paying for and Republicans are destroying the economy and middle class with a false belief that one big business is better than 100 small ones. We the people could run our country from our home computers and eliminate the middle man politicians who are not doing our bidding.

    January 15, 2014 10:13 am at 10:13 am |
  3. Name mylynn krukoski

    My boyfriend paid in all his life and now why are we being punished. We can't pay our bills or buy food

    January 15, 2014 10:14 am at 10:14 am |
  4. ERIC

    i dont have any money, my cell bill is almost due so i cant buy bus pass. im down to eating the things in pantry that id never eat. once a day, my stomach hurts so much i consider stealing from store. i had to cancel xmas and my daughters birthday party, which is this month. i have pawned tv and what not. i dont have family to help me get back on feet. its so hopeless. my state funded UI ended on the 28th last month, i never use this crap cuz i always work, and the ONE TIME I NEED some help these people we voted in office can't forsee this before it expires to take action?! i wouldnt even know where to go to get food stamps, i just want to work again! i am suffering so much because of political season, i consider going to ER because of such bad stomach aches. thats a easy $3k bill that would be stiffed, i just need more time to find work, its bad here!

    January 15, 2014 10:28 am at 10:28 am |
  5. Nancy

    The republicans have no problem helping other countries by financing. The deployment of our young boys to lose their lives fighting other peoples wars!!! But the homeless, jobless Americans suffer by not getting help from their own government that they pay into with their money when they work, how does that make sense , It's time to clean up and get rid of these politicians that worry about getting votes instead of helping their own people! Yet they NEVER get their pay disrupted!!!!! Totally disgusted with our government!!!

    January 15, 2014 10:29 am at 10:29 am |
  6. keller

    I hope both parties remember that come election time us unemployed folks do vote...I will be there first thing when polls open!! They really need to stop fighting & remember that we look for work everyday, but without that check they just made it harder to look. How is someone to get out & go when we have no gas money or bus fair!!! Don't get me started on how my kids suffer & It makes me feel even worse to look in their eyes . I want a job I hate being on unemployment, but jobs are hard to come by when they think your over qualified or to old. I'm only 48 , but they want someone younger who takes a job for granted or has no college degree. I don't understand this I'm at the point where I will take anything at all !!! I just hope they do something soon because I'm out of MONEY!!!!

    January 15, 2014 10:31 am at 10:31 am |
  7. Cindy Mugford

    Absolutely insane that OUR so called government is taking a BREAK!!! Why doesn't the president take away the senators office credit cards, free meals, and ridiculous salaries. That would fund the unemployment extension. I am over 50 and have worked since I was 16 years old and cannot get any help from MY government. Come on. Get your act together. Mr. President do not allow a break until the pressing issues are dealt with. This is our lives you are dealing with. I know there are people that abuse the system as a lot of our senators do but there are thousands of people who do not and we need help. Grow up and do your job. Maybe there are "too many cooks in the kitchen!!!"

    January 15, 2014 10:36 am at 10:36 am |
  8. ERIC

    "Mitch
    These are troubling times. Revolutionary times. When a government lets people starve while packing their bags for a vacation. We as a country must come together now. Start paying attention. If tour child is starving you find food by ehayever means. You dont argue about it gor weeks and then take a vacation!! Obe of our great forefathers said it best; "when the government fears the people its called freedom. When the people fear the government its called tyrrany". Wake up america.

    January 15, 2014 10:13 am at 10:13 am |"

    ------------------–

    im too hungry for them to take paid vacation off my taxed money. where is timothy mcvey when you need a real american hero? he was ahead of his time with his ideals of america. dont support hurting innocent victims tho, we are in this together! we the people!

    January 15, 2014 10:38 am at 10:38 am |
  9. pamela duncan

    We need our benefits.I have worked all my life.its hard to find jobs that you can make enough to live on .I have always been proud to be an American but.know ........tonight when you go home remember you have a home,a bed,and food .there are so many that dont have anything.take a moment and walk in our shoes

    January 15, 2014 10:41 am at 10:41 am |
  10. Olivia

    These politicians make me nauseous. So they have more pressing matters to attend to while millions of Americans can't feed themselves or their families and some at risk of losing what little left they have. They don't find this pressing at all? Of course not, why would they when they are still being paid their undeserved money and are able to feed their families and take their paid vacations. I find it hysterical that these eggheads whom we voted into office cause of course we believed all their lies are now sitting around and making our lives miserable because they are on a power trip and again they get paid regardless so why do they care. Don't you love our political system and how we are so trusting to leave our fates in the hands of children, cause that's exactly what all of them are. Actually I am sure that their are 5yr olds more mature in the world. Our politicians are a bunch of spoiled rotten preschoolers who only care about themselves and what they are going to get out of everything. Just so very sad! Sigh!!

    January 15, 2014 10:43 am at 10:43 am |
  11. Bill

    I guess this now former GOP member will tell my utility companies that their payments have been "back-burnered" because the money I am dependent upon as I search for work has been cruelly withheld by the government.

    January 15, 2014 10:43 am at 10:43 am |
  12. Marc

    A Punch In the Face of all American's that are unemployed and looking for work daily. This shouldn't be about either side of the Senate or the House, this should be about the American people that should be helped before we help anyone else. A very low blow, like many, the end of the month is nearing, no steady income coming in the door, no way to pay bills, no way to pay rent, no way to stay afloat, how dare you Politian's do what you have to hurt the people of America. Knowing this situation will harm a lot of people forcing them to do anything by any means necessary to live life. We are a weak country now, we don't help each other as Americans and its sad.

    January 15, 2014 10:45 am at 10:45 am |
  13. franki

    Iam eating neckbones fat cats. Eating. Steak.first time lost job in 50 years where our gov when we need them

    January 15, 2014 10:47 am at 10:47 am |
  14. Fair is Fair

    "im too hungry for them to take paid vacation off my taxed money. where is timothy mcvey when you need a real american hero? he was ahead of his time with his ideals of america. dont support hurting innocent victims tho, we are in this together! we the people!"
    -------
    Hey Sniffit... this may be the Robespierre you're looking for.

    January 15, 2014 10:49 am at 10:49 am |
  15. ERIC

    THE AMERICAN DREAM WAS OUTSOURCED! go out of country to find US JOB, they hiring in manila even get sign on bonus – i wish that wasnt true, but it is.

    January 15, 2014 10:50 am at 10:50 am |
  16. Paul

    I got screwed twice by our government now. Last January they restructured Medicare and would no longer pay bills for customers from the medical supply company I worked for. Medicare payments was 80% of our business and I was laid off in April. I started receiving EUC payments in November and it stopped on 12/28/13. I have no family... My phone is about to get cut off. I hate being home all the time. I hate these 2 hour long online job applications that only email me back a "thanks but no thanks" I may live this country but I hate this government. They screwed us over only over petty bickering and plays for power to push agendas in the future that can help suit them best. They aren't out here trying to survive and never have been.

    January 15, 2014 10:51 am at 10:51 am |
  17. well time to start over again

    I didn't get anything for my kid on his birthday because I was broke. My car will most likely get repossessed, phone cut off. Just needed more time, I worked and paid taxes my whole life and collected UI for the last 3 months but 3 months is not enough especially in the state of Florida . I went on A LOT of interviews , interview after interview and no luck. Applied for HUNDREDS of jobs online usually the same response, "we thank you for your interest but at this time we have decided to move on with other candidates....." Luckily I have family and friends that will never allow me to be homeless but there are people out there that may not be so fortunate. Only option I now have is just let my credit get ruined and start over again once I find a job. Good luck to the rest of you and I hope you all pull through.

    January 15, 2014 10:51 am at 10:51 am |
  18. Fair is Fair

    franki

    Iam eating neckbones fat cats. Eating. Steak.first time lost job in 50 years where our gov when we need them
    --------
    50 years, you say? So shouldn't you be collecting social security by now... I mean if you've been working 50 years, you must be eligible for Social Security. Manage to save anything in your 50-year working career?

    January 15, 2014 10:54 am at 10:54 am |
  19. Sherie

    Instead of help for the unemployed yesterday, Obama thinks sports is more important than helping us. This makes me sick.............
    Washington (CNN) – Armed with one liners, a few digs, and a broad smile, President Barack Obama welcomed the 2013 NBA Champions, the Miami Heat, to the White House Tuesday afternoon, and congratulated them on winning the world championship for a second year in a row.

    January 15, 2014 10:54 am at 10:54 am |
  20. the_dude

    I'm for extending unemployment for these losers but they really should be out there picking up garbage and filling potholes for at least 20hrs a week.

    January 15, 2014 10:54 am at 10:54 am |
  21. Pete

    Remember historicly republicans have never done anything to help benefit their constituents just bowing to their corporate handlers..No matter what the republicans know they'll get hit hard because before this they wanted rediculous concessions even when looking for some states emergency aid..Just ask NJ Christie on what republicans wanted to do before releasing Sandy emergency aid or ask Eric Cantor what he wanted in concessions before giving in to his own states plea for emergency help..This is killing the republican party but as usual they're both arrogent and incompetent to realize it....

    January 15, 2014 10:54 am at 10:54 am |
  22. Namelisa

    I hope they know they are playing with Americans lives here!People out of work desperately need these benefits to help support their familys while trying to find a job!This is just wrong and now they are taking another break?For what??Get to work and pass this now!!

    January 15, 2014 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
  23. Tiff

    It's sad when the government can run to the aide of another country but not willing to support or help there own. Millions of ppl are hurting worrying how to make ends meet with childrens saying mom/dad im hungry what are we going to eat bills getting turned off no warm water to bathe in teachers asking questions when you pick up your child because your child can't focus because they're hungry. No family to help you with anything. Its not like we want to be on euc but when you have interviews you call people back they give you the run around and don't have integrity. WHAT DO GOP WANT US TO DO. A GOVERNMENT WITH NO INTEGRITY WHO GOES ON A BREAK WHILE THE AMERICAN PPL ARE SUFFERING AND CHILDREN. I WISH I WAS AT THE CAPITAL BECAUSE I WOULD GIVE THEM A PIECE OF MY MIND

    January 15, 2014 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
  24. NameCandie

    A week long vacation sounds heartless because many Americans can't even feed themselves.Many Republicans want to know how the unemployment extention will be covered, but we know how the week long vacation for CONGRESS will be covered on the backs of the tax payers. Which i find pretty funny. How much are the tax payers paying for these guys to take a vacation?

    January 15, 2014 10:56 am at 10:56 am |
  25. Anonymous

    Going to homeless shelter while they have there week off in there beautiful homes. Hum. Maybe they will let me and all others move in with them. NOT

    January 15, 2014 10:56 am at 10:56 am |
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