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. Carol

    Didn't they just come back from Christmas break? Who gets another week off right after that? and make the wages they make? Are you kidding me????? No incumbent should be re-elected. OK, also, raise the minimum wage, because that's the only jobs that might be out there for us.

    January 15, 2014 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  2. OK

    no mas

    And they say Republicans are the party of NO??? Yet the DEMOCRAT senate failed to pass a bill to help those they cater to??? HYPOCRITES!!!

    --

    Are you really that ignorant of how the Senate works? It takes 60 votes to break a filibuster, and the Democrats do not have 60 votes.

    January 15, 2014 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  3. STJ

    GREAT ! They made may choice very simple, Now I know who I am NOT voting for !!!!

    January 15, 2014 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  4. Pete

    These republicans railing against anything that helps their constituents will feel it at midterms because remember idiots it doesn't cost anything to vote!!

    January 15, 2014 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  5. Alivia

    There are 1.4million and counting that are desperate for these benefits and Congress is about to take another vacation. This is simply OUTRAGEOUS>>>absolutely OUTRAGEOUS. And I dont give a damn about whether you are Rep. or Dem. where is the HUMANITY for God's sake??? People are literally starving. This is ridiculous

    January 15, 2014 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
  6. Reginald Walker

    As an unemployed American, I am extremely upset that Congress did extend the benefit. The monetary benefit is not much but it does help. I am still looking for employment and will not give up until I find a job. Please, extend the benefit, we need it.

    January 15, 2014 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  7. Patricia

    This is the craziest thing I've ever faced. I will be voting independent from now on. Our government is corrupt. I would like for them to try and find a job in todays economy. I just got my last check. I've only drawn my 26 weeks. The average job placement is 33 weeks I think it said and it's untelling what year that poll took place. I have a Master's degree in counseling and I'll be flipping burgers next week! Who's gonna pay my student loans and look how well education paid off.

    January 15, 2014 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  8. Jeremy Haley

    It makes me so sick to read how our government acts like kids fighting over candy worried about if one is going to get more than the other! Or people are doing with out because of this. I am a American I believe in fighting for or people but I don't believe in hurting them! The Senators pockets are lined with plenty of money why should they care if 1.3million people are doing with out!

    January 15, 2014 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  9. Nameantwainette henderson

    i haven't paid my rent this month due to the fact there is no extension of benefits.. can't put gas in my car pay my phone bill by hygiene products ect...how am i going to find a job?i earned those benefits in case of emergency....what im i gonna do i have two children?please help me...restore benefits.....

    January 15, 2014 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  10. STJ

    I guess I am going to follow Danielle, apply for welfare, food stamps and free medical. Life is good... All I was asking for, was my unemployment back. But NO ! way to much to give... now I will cost the government lots more. Who in Washington is doing the math. Bunch of idiots, can figure out the Basics...

    January 15, 2014 12:03 pm at 12:03 pm |
  11. Name Joel

    How childish our United States Senate is. I hope that when you all sit down to your Family meal tonight that cost more than the average person recives in uneployment per week. That you think about how many lives that you are hurting buy your childish ways. When you see the half eating T Bone Stakes that you going to throw away you can hear the growling of a child's stomach and the tears falling from a parents eye. Shame on you all. May God Bless America and open the eyes of our leaders.

    January 15, 2014 12:05 pm at 12:05 pm |
  12. Namejackie hill

    People need the money they get from unemployment.
    I myself will not vote for any membet of congress or Senate that vote not to extend the extension.

    January 15, 2014 12:06 pm at 12:06 pm |
  13. gwilson

    It's sad when you live in this country all your life, you have paid your dues and try to live right you get slapped in the face. This person speaking about taking a low paying job if anyone could find a job they would. We the people have sacrifice everything for this country what do we get the rich people sitting there debating on giving people this little bit of money that we need to live REALLY. I'm sure if you had a mortgage you would look at things a little different.

    January 15, 2014 12:06 pm at 12:06 pm |
  14. CB

    Tyler

    With the amount of people that abused this 99 week unemployment benefit, it's no wonder it's not getting extended. I personally know 3 people who got 99 weeks of unemployment along with working under the table at $20+/hour. Probably the best 99 weeks of income in their lives.

    -You know what Tyler, you are a bigger problem that they (supposedly) are. Every state has a mechanism to report UE fraud. If in fact you are aware of it and did not report it, you have no right to complain.

    January 15, 2014 12:07 pm at 12:07 pm |
  15. Micky

    My benefits were cut off. I have NO income to even pay bills. I hear AC is doing horrible, grocery stores, retail stores...everyone is hurting. Even utility companies because the jobless have no money to pay!! Congress needs to pass the extrnsion...it's real easy to deny jobless people benefits when you have no worries of money!!!!

    January 15, 2014 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  16. NamJennifer Haynes

    I am a single mom of a 13 year old son.I was laid off from my job this past April.Unemployment was my way of paying my rent and keeping my head above water.I thought our government is there to help us not destroy us.

    January 15, 2014 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
  17. Steve

    I am one of the many people affected by this decision to let the EUC benefits expire. I was able to get Medicaid and Food Stamps yesterday but have no income and I am facing eviction and homelessness. I have worked for 40 years and have never had such a difficult time asking for and receiving some type of assistance. I guess I should start doing drugs or get married and hale a litter of kids so I could get assistance.

    January 15, 2014 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  18. NameFred Helm

    You keep putting it off, while the poor suffer...you will be out of a job in November!

    January 15, 2014 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  19. Connie Bennett

    I will be 58 this year and have worked all my life. I lost my job along with others in the company I was working for last April. I never thought at my age I would be in this situation; let alone not being able to draw my unemployment. I also agree now I will have to apply for food stamps and I am waiting on appeal for Medicaid at this time. I can't believe IN. didn't even expand their coverage since almost halt the other states did. I begging for an extension not just for me but other that truly deserve this. Please help those in need of their extension. I also just found out through the Medicaid office I can't even sign up for health coverage because a person has to make $950 a month or something like this. I have had many health issues including breast cancer and still continued to work along with a double fusion in my back in 1999 and still went back to work due to my ex-husband owing me $85,000. in back child support when he passed away in 2005. I call the state to find out about his W2's since he never filed taxed for 10-years because he knew I would get it. I was told since I divorced in 1987, it had to be in the last 3-years; so I couldn't get them. Doesn't make since to me!

    January 15, 2014 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  20. Rob

    How long is long enough to extend the benefits? There HAS to be a number that even libs think is enough, right? Or should they be extended forever. No max? Just curious.

    January 15, 2014 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  21. Kalispeaks

    As I read these comments, I realized how much pain this is to watch my people (Americans), in the same boat that I'm in. I thought that it was just me. SENDING 400 apps, as a nurse mind u, and I worked a temp job for 6 months, I still didn't even make enough for a new claim. I have two special needs children and to read this is just disappointing. This job market is horrible even for my field. That the reality where I live. Oh yeah, by the way, I called my local shelter, they're full. Guess I have to keep calling.

    January 15, 2014 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  22. ljones1111

    How about we take back the 1.5 billion we just approved for Egypt. How about the illegals using their food stamps in Mexico taking the spending from the US. How about some of the stupid programs dealing with monkeys, rats, birds that we spend millions in grants. I guess that tells us where we rank when help is needed for good people in America?? I don't think I will be voting Republican anymore Paul or Cruz. There is no need to make this political unless you are running for President????

    January 15, 2014 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  23. SFChgowomanwhosFaithisinGODandnottheGOP

    I am a 63 year old educated single female, mother and grandmother temporarily unemployed, but experienced worker for the past 43 years, home is now in jeopardy of foreclosure with no health-care benefits. I am not lazy by any means of the systemic language of categories our current law makers choose to define as unemployed workers. Scripture tells us that God appoints and gives powers to the leaders of our nation that have rule over His people. Therefore, per the defined role of government to create laws to provide, serve and protect the welfare of the “People” and as some laws were designed to protect the people from themselves. Therefore lawmakers “Are we the not those same “People” the unemployed, underemployed, homeless, sick and afflicted, young and old. Shame, shame, shame, on each and every legislator who breached these biblical and public laws that have caused much undue stress and anguish upon God’s “People”. My plea is that you use your influence towards improving the quality of life for the 1.3 million Americans effected by your exercising your choice to support and extend the unemployment benefits extension impacted by this state of affairs. I urge you do it and do it now, don’t wait to fix such a critical matter due to a lack of understanding in the need to aid the people of these United States of America. “Liberty is Free” says my countryman. I pray for peace and healing for our lands.

    January 15, 2014 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  24. CB

    I already did what Danielle stated. I'm now going to severely impact the social services system since this government has left me no other recourse and have applied for food stamps and medical. I was laid off last Feb. and just completed my MBA from an Ivy League school and am still waiting to land a job. I see now that I will never ever donate a dime to a political campaign but instead will give it to organizations like the Food Bank and shelters, because those are the only ones really doing anything to help people in need in this country...these politicians are not. No wonder when you talk with people in other parts of the world they laugh at the U.S. We are only good for pop culture, greed and trying to bankrupt the world, because our politics are not for the people but for individuals' and party agendas.

    January 15, 2014 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  25. gwilson

    This so sad the way this country is today. It's going to be a war right here if things do not change. What has happen to our country. People are unable to find jobs we have lost unemployment what's next. Right now people are on soup lines. The Rich people sitting there debating on giving our tax dollars to us. REALLY!!!!! If this is the case give us JOBS make these companies start hiring people. Due to the Sub prime screw up not out fault it was Bush and Wall street. Now we have to suffer. My god help you all the Devil is a lie.

    January 15, 2014 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
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