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. why does this matter

    I guess working 20yrs at the same job accounts for nothing. Now, unemployed and 60 yrs old. Really, I will a job right away, NOT! Our government is a joke.

    January 15, 2014 10:57 am at 10:57 am |
  2. Jo

    Too bad they will be unemployed come next year. They shouldn't get the pension and healthcare benefits that go along with having served. Absolute nonsense. We need to create more jobs cut back on fraudulent SSI and welfare. I'm a veteran with 2 masters degrees and I'm not above any job and neither should someone who didn't graduate high school.

    January 15, 2014 11:03 am at 11:03 am |
  3. Name. randy frosch

    Go ahead take a week off we are going to go hungry o yea didn't u just come back from a break that's what I thought. It's all about a vote. Not feeding people

    January 15, 2014 11:04 am at 11:04 am |
  4. mari

    The government is putting this "on the backburner"? Can anyone of the Congressmen and women PLEASE do us a huge favor??? Please call our mortgage, car loan and student loan companies and please ask that our loan payments be placed "on the backburner". How about all of our utilities? It's January...heat is nice, but I can't afford it. Can gas, electric and phone bills be put "on the backburner"? My kids are going back to college this weekend with no tuition or books (because they based their student loans on money I DON'T MAKE ANYMORE! So they don't have any.). Can you please call all of their colleges, please ask them if they can still attend for free. Just for now... just "put it on the backburner"?

    Thank you from the average citizen who can't find a job because I'm overeducated and overqualified.

    January 15, 2014 11:11 am at 11:11 am |
  5. michelle

    Today is the day i just got evicted. i am a single mom. i have being working since i was 16. I am 41. My kids daddy died and left me to raise 5 kids on my own, never asking the government for anything. The one time i did through no fault on my own was getting my unemployment check to pay rent and bills, that got taking away,now i can't support us. How do i find us some where to go with no income. I just want to thank Congress because now me and my kids are homeless with no money. i caught the bus everyday to look for a job, i was not abusing the system.

    January 15, 2014 11:11 am at 11:11 am |
  6. Fair is Fair

    We've been told that the economy is doing soooooooooooo much better since Obama came into office. You read these comments and Hoovertowns come to mind. Which is it?

    January 15, 2014 11:11 am at 11:11 am |
  7. bill

    If your out of work and watching the repubs refuse to help us, search for repub senate and congress and contact their washington office and tell them you will make sure that dems will get voted in their place...don't try mitch mcconnel's washington office...he such a piece of crap he won't even let you leave a v.m....call as many as you can then wem work hard to yet repubs out of office all together

    January 15, 2014 11:11 am at 11:11 am |
  8. deb zarisky

    I am completely amazed how heartless our government is I have been
    Been laid off twice now the first time was in 2008 when I worked for GM the government bailed GM out and I was shown the unemployment line because they closed our plant- I lost my job in June of 2013 was getting unemployment for six months and just lost it. I am continuously looking for work I am not lazy nor uneducated but with there being only one job for every 3 people its almost impossible. Maybe if we would quit sending jobs overseas we might stand a better chance and BTW who's to blame for that umm our governmentAs I sit here worrying about what to do if this does not get straightened out asap I will remember this come election time believe me

    January 15, 2014 11:12 am at 11:12 am |
  9. Patti

    President Obama said he had a pen and phone, it's time he used it

    January 15, 2014 11:15 am at 11:15 am |
  10. Name

    Do they raed this posts?

    January 15, 2014 11:16 am at 11:16 am |
  11. Janielle

    It's been almost two weeks since the start of deliberation on EU benefits. I know im not an expert but I'm affected by the governments like of conpassedor people to get there life on track. Without this money how would people be able to pay their bills yet alone look for a job. Normally my benefits would be available to me on Thursday. However, I would not be able to get then causing me not being able to go on job interviews I had lined up for the week to come. My phone week be disconnected because i can't pay the bill, after cutting the house phone my cell phone is all i have. Not getting EU benefits also limits me being able to look for a job because I'm not able to get back and forth to libraries or to different employers in search of regaining employment.
    This wait hurts millions. Funny, when Bush was in office the extension of EU benefits was passed five times With no problem. Help us to help the economy do not consider us children and cut of our allowance because you can't have your way.

    January 15, 2014 11:18 am at 11:18 am |
  12. Edoggy

    The GOP has demonstrated time and time again they have no compassion for Americans who are most in need. Using politics to not approve extended benefits for these folks who lost their jobs through no fault of their is very callous and cowardly. Vote all these GOP politicians out in 2014 or expect the same. God helpbless all of you people who need this money to put food on the table and pay bills.

    January 15, 2014 11:32 am at 11:32 am |
  13. Rudy NYC

    Fair is Fair wrote:

    Fair is Fair

    We've been told that the economy is doing soooooooooooo much better since Obama came into office. You read these comments and Hoovertowns come to mind. Which is it?
    ----------------------------
    Check the numbers and you'll see a big difference.
    Jobs growth went from shedding 750,000 to 48 straight months of positive gains.
    All of the markets have doubled.
    The demand for and the price of oil has rebounded after hitting rock bottom because of a recovering global economy.

    If the economy is so bad off, then please tell us what evidence you have before you shoot off.

    January 15, 2014 11:32 am at 11:32 am |
  14. Nicole Khoury

    This is such a slap in the face!! No one wants to be unemployed, but to be cut off when you are looking everyday to find another job is just heartless. Hope they sleep well knowing we are waiting for them to decide to help their fellow Americans.

    January 15, 2014 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  15. priorities

    As a person who has seen large chunks of his modest income absorbed by the seemingly insatiable Federal government, I too find its undisciplined profligacy intolerable. I understand the impulse to put a stop to further excess spending.

    But as a person who has just spent some time unemployed, I can say first-hand that there are people who are genuinely suffering because they desperately need the minimal support afforded by unemployment insurance.

    From the point of view of a working-class person unsure how s/he will make rent this month, it really doesn't make any immediate difference who should be blamed for the sluggish economy – the immediate fact is that finding a decent job can take time and depriving him/her of this bottom-line level of support doesn't make it easier.

    Desperation can be a motivator of sorts – sometimes you have to hit bottom to bounce back, long-term it can be the best thing for you – but it can also completely demoralize a person and suppress his/her chance of appearing to be a desirable hire.

    So, yes, Congress, do what you can to force the government to manage our tax money wisely. But playing games with a few necessary weeks of benefits for would-be working people who need them is not the place to do it.

    January 15, 2014 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  16. Barry

    This is embarassing for all Americans. Our Congress has been acting like a bunch of Babies!

    January 15, 2014 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  17. GOP = Greed Over People

    "We've been told that the economy is doing soooooooooooo much better since Obama came into office. You read these comments and Hoovertowns come to mind. Which is it?"

    It is not a either/or situation, Out here in reality, it can be both. Ecomony is improving AND unemployment is coming down, however, it is still high AND there are 3 applicants for every open job.

    I know cons like to believe everything fits neatly into a black or white decision matrix, right or wrong, good or bad.

    But sometimes, life really is about things being grey.

    January 15, 2014 11:40 am at 11:40 am |
  18. Robb

    Hey its like this since rich republicans like seeing people like me stay jobless and homeless. Also it was the republicans who outscoursed all the jobs sent them overseas and still get there money and pay no taxes. If I did that I would be put under the prison with a needle in my butt. Republican means old confederate dumb red neck values and isn't a help to nobody including themselves. Do away with the republicans this will be a great country.

    January 15, 2014 11:41 am at 11:41 am |
  19. nitadc

    This is insane! This is why there should not be rich men deciding the fate of the rest of us. They really have no idea
    what our problem is. They are trying to shock us into just getting a job. They have never been hungry, facing eviction or unemployed. You can not expect them to understand you. They really truly think we just don't want to work. It goes to show that a millionaire can not understand people collecting unemployment and living on $300 A WEEK.

    He can't believe that if we don't get this weekly payment we will starve and be evicted. Surely, we must have other funds somewhere. This is just like when Reagan said "there were no hungry children in America." He really didn't understand how someone could be down to their last penny. He was rich. You all can make all the comments you want about lazy unemployed people, but you are just one job away from this. Think what would happen in 6 months time if you lost YOUR job. And please don't say you would easily find another one. it's just not true in this market.

    January 15, 2014 11:41 am at 11:41 am |
  20. 817stp

    So I posted a comment last night (hurricane sandy victim) ... funny im reading and like someone said I cant even afford to go on a job interview.By the way I recieved an email to schedule to be interviewed and ironically I would have been able to go if I recieved my unemployment today but unfortunately I have no money to get there. All we need is help....one hand washes the other.... help us help the economy!!! Whats really sad is I may lose this opportunity and it irritates me because I need and want to work.

    January 15, 2014 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  21. Laura

    I am long term unemployed. For the past year and a half I have spent every day on the internet, going to job fairs, pounding the pavement, and have had NOTHING come through. I'm not lazy by any means. I spend 8 hours a day looking for work, and am met with silence. I haven't been called for an interview in 3 months. I am educated, intelligent, and lost my job in 2011 thanks to congress' lack of funding education programs. They have cut off my funding now as well. What am I to do? I don't know. Obviously our politicians do not represent us. Maybe we should all move to Syria, because they're all getting aide while our own are faced with eviction and starvation.

    January 15, 2014 11:43 am at 11:43 am |
  22. Mary

    I and many of my coworkers are losing our jobs on January 31 because of the Affordable Care Act. Why should I be penalized for something that is not my fault?

    January 15, 2014 11:45 am at 11:45 am |
  23. anonymous

    Very disturbing to know that the American government could take pride in looking forward to a vacation this weekend before resolving this very important matter at hand of extending unemployment insurance. What do we have to do to get their attention? March with over a million picket signs? Do we riot and loot the more fortunate? Excuse me for saying this but if things don't change soon I am prepared to do any and everything i have to do, whether it be legal or not, harmful or not to take car of I and my family before I allow this joke of a government ruin their joy and comfort. Headed to Walmart to purchase my tools for destruction.

    January 15, 2014 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  24. Danielle

    Here is the thing. If you don't restore the EUC payments, these same people will apply and receive public assistance. They will then receive cash, medical and food stamps. This would cost more. How can people look for work with no internet housing or phone or car or gas? OK, fine! I'm a single mom and I am going right now to get my welfare, food stamps and medical. I have no income and I absolutely qualify. Even if I own my home free and clear. If I am so dumb and lazy, how did I pay off my home in full. I must have liked to work right?! Get off my butt Congress. If I could get job I would have one. Now, you can just give me my welfare!!! I will have the food stamps $378 in one week as I have no food or money. Can't wait to get the medical.

    January 15, 2014 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
  25. Ed

    The senate and the house should come together and work on a solution to the loss of manafacturing due to out sourcing by American firms and the sale of American manafacturing to foreign entities. Resolve that issue and rebuild the manafacturing beast in this country and the problem of long term unemployment goes away. Since the governments I action is the cause the government pays the price by supporting the not by choice unemployed.

    January 15, 2014 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
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