Extending unemployment benefits stumbles in Senate
January 14th, 2014
04:32 PM ET
7 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. Lynda/Minnesota

    There is quite the overtone of mockery for the unemployed on this thread. Apparently mocking the down and out by adding nonsensical and completely made-up stories has become a new fun in American politics.

    January 15, 2014 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  2. LeeLee

    I have no hope in the government they do what they want and do not care about the people. This government leaves me hopeless!!!How could they do what they just done to people all around the world. I never thought I see the day they would not put the people first regardless to money people need that extension what are they to do now other then go to public aid and apply there for assistance.THEY DON'T CARE WAKE UP CALL .....They only care about saving money not lives I HATE OUR GOVERNMENT FOR WHO THEY HAVE BECOME AND WHAT THEY STAND FOR!!! WHAT ABOUT THE PEOPLE

    January 15, 2014 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  3. NameFred Helm

    I live in Kentucky...goodbye, Mitch!

    January 15, 2014 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  4. Anonymous

    Now the people need the help of right choices through our government. The government needs to look to God for the answers now. Many people need the help of unemployment programs. Getting help through welfare, food stamps etc is a joke for those that do apply and have to wait for 3months or so, especially those with young children. Sure the super storm of sandy put alot more people on unemployment than normal, but we the people need to stick together. If there is not compromise the people of the U.S will make other choices that will make matters much worse. I pray for this nation . Lets look at the people not the craziness that keeps appearing on our news headlines. The truth will be revealed.

    January 15, 2014 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  5. Maria

    . Without the Extention of Unemployment, the US WILL COLAPSE. Middle Class is the backbone of Our Country. Not passing this wil Destroy the Economy because we will not be sending our hard work Money which WE HAVE CONTRIBUTIED to in our salaries for Federal Income Tax!!No Money, no Recovery to simulate our Economy ! HIGH OFFICE PEOPLE SUCH AS CONGRESS DON'T CARE, THEY ARE MILLIONS !! More and More People will have to turn to Medicaid (welfare to Survive).. Time to make the Right Decisions because it May Be TOO LATE IN THE FUTURE !! MR. PRESIDENT, WHERE ARE YOU? j Have loss Full Rescect as a Leader of US !!!

    January 15, 2014 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  6. geraldine lane

    This is a travesty for those long term uemployed who are innocent victims of the long and devastating recession. I am among those who are affected by this short term decision and can guarantee that I have and will continue to seek employent. PLEASE do not back burner this essentIal assistance ....

    January 15, 2014 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  7. Yeahright

    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.

    -----

    This is not extending the length of time that anyone can get benefits. The amount of time that a person can qualify for the federal Emergency Unsmployment compensation depends on the unemployment rate in the state they live in. The length of time those benefits are available for has been steadily dropping as the unemployment rate drops. This bill would merely fund the benefits that people has already qualified for. Once you have exhausted the benefits you are qualified for, you're done.l
    Got it? Or is it so much easier to post snarky comments than to actually know what you are talking about?

    January 15, 2014 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  8. Name

    No welfare in my state seen im considered an able body man all i can get is food stamps which don`t pay rent. I`ll e homeless soon. But i`ll have food -14. Outside wont have roof over my head. I love the USA

    January 15, 2014 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  9. Tom Bukowski

    Must be a family values thing.

    January 15, 2014 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  10. Maya

    This is such a joke. I am a struggling single mother of 1. I lost my job in May of 2013 after 6 years due to the recession and i decided to go back to college to finish up my bachelors to increase my total earning potential. I went through all my savings over the last 6 months and was forced to withdraw my 401k because i had to pay for healthcare out of pocket, along with rent, childcare, utilities, and all of my other living expenses. I was forced to go and apply for welfare. I have never been on any type of assistance prior to May of last year. I think not extending the UEB is a joke we will not feel the severity of this on our economy for a couple of months, but this will lead to a higher unemployment rate and will increase the amount of individuals applying for Welfare.

    January 15, 2014 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  11. Rich

    I've hit 3 Republican houses this week. Made over $1000. Never thought I'd have to resort to this way of life but I'll be damned if my kids starve and guess what....what I'm reduced to doin is only going to get worse and eventually the people who were made into the havenots will run this country.

    January 15, 2014 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  12. Rudy NYC

    Maria

    . Without the Extention of Unemployment, the US WILL COLAPSE. Middle Class is the backbone of Our Country. Not passing this wil Destroy the Economy because we will not be sending our hard work Money which WE HAVE CONTRIBUTIED to in our salaries for Federal Income Tax!!
    -----------------------–
    Cutting off UI benefits can only be harmful to the economy. A lot of people on the right will tell you that you are wrong to say that you have contributed to UI benefits through your taxes. They'll be quick to tell you that employers pay for it.

    Those people who would say that employers are paying for the extension of UI benefits are dead wrong. The emergency extensions are paid for with federal funds, not the state funds that employers make their contributions to that pays for the first 26 weeks.

    January 15, 2014 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  13. Dee

    WOW what a mess our government is. Everyone is guilty of making it a toilet. Now we are talking about the citizens of the USA who have worked hard all their lives and are asking for help 'cause we've lost jobs thru no fault of our own.
    What does our government do to help "nothing" but sit on their butts and criticise us for not finding work that is not there to find. Maybe if these hogs in congress gave up their $million dollar paychecks they could cut the budget they claim is the problem. Why don't they consider their spending and cut that so we hard working people won't be in the cold at night while these "hogs" sleep toasty warm. Give up the expensive dinners while we look for coupons to save $.25 to buy food.for our families. Congress you're "HEARTLESS"!!! They say what comes around goes around and I sure hope you get the chance to suffer as these unemployed US citizens are. What do you tell your children at night .... next week we'll go to Disney......while we tell our children .... maybe we'll have a nice dinner and warm beds.
    Get back in your session and vote to extend benefits for the families of the United States. You are a US Citizen aren't you???? well act like one and help us....the hard working unemployed who need it. Out next week, AGAIN!!....where are you vacationing this time using our money?? Don't try and shake my hand when you're out there lying for votes....we the people can do a better job....we the people need to wise up and put in the right people to help run this country and not into the ground like the Congress we have now is doing. We look like a big joke to the rest of the world. Proud to be an American?.....I want to be and so should you. Get your act together Congress and do the right thing for us...all of us.

    January 15, 2014 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  14. Demetrious

    I guess all u people who voted Republican won't vote for them the next election they do not give a damn about us or our starving kids now they are about to go on break while our kids starve and we get put out of our homes. I cannot believe that they are just going to leave all these people without income for another week while they cool off as one senate representative put it.Cool off seriously while we sit here and suffer.

    January 15, 2014 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  15. Name Cunfused

    How to pay for this is simple just cut foreign aid. I think we need to take care of Americans first.

    January 15, 2014 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
  16. plasticshoe

    Why not fund the extension by imposing a nice fat fee/tariff on outsourced American products. Problem solved

    January 15, 2014 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
  17. NJP

    I am 58 years old. I am divorced (do not have a husband to support me) I was laid off 2 years ago. I have worked since I was 16, even working when I was in college. I have only worked 6 months in the last 2 years. When employers find out how old you are, you don't seem to be "fitting in" any longer or find other reasons to let you go. I have been a taxpayer, paying property taxes, paying into the social security (which is my only retirement, now that I have to spend any savings I presently have on my bills, food & expenses). I have worked for most of 42 years, I believe that now that I am unemployed & need the unemployment benefits, I am being screwed by the republicans!! I now have to live with my 88 year old mother (who only gets about $800 a month disability social security). I will have to ask for assistance (food stamps, medicaid) so I will not be a burden to her!!!! My daughter is unemployed, so she can not help me. So I do not have health insurance, & I am going to be penalized for that, I will have to pay a fine on my income tax return!! How can I pay for health insurance when I do not have a job??? It's great the politicians make good money for the rest if their lives, but I thought we were paying them to represent us, the common people. I would like them to walk in my shoes.......can't sleep at night because you don't know when & if you will get a job!!!! I feel sorry for the unemployed mothers & fathers who have small children to take caee of..... just want Washington to wake up!!!!!

    January 15, 2014 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  18. Mind blowing

    I really do feel for President Obama! EU benefits should have been handled before now and in a fashion fitting the greatness of the US government. He is literally surrounded by absolute evil to the right and lameness to the left. These so called "leaders" shouldn't be running an elementary playground let alone the government.
    Abraham Lincoln said it best "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely."

    January 15, 2014 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  19. Darrell

    will never donate another dime to any party again, for not extending the unemployment benefits, I have been really trying to find a job, they do not help me, be dame I help them when they need it they can rot in -l. Republican party are a bunch of crooks,

    January 15, 2014 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  20. Jennifer

    I was termiated from my company of 6 years in January 2013 and lost my unemployment on 12/28. I was fired while on Maternity Leave 7 day's before I was to return to work. I have been turned down by many jobs, but it never stopped me from looking. however since I have no income now, my car is out of gas, dead in my driveway and I have 2 kids aged 1 and 8 and no grocery money. Now I really can't look for a job since I can not afford the gas so I do have to put my job search on hold. My Mother is driving me to my local welfare office to see if I could get my children help in food. Now I am by far not crying I took over a 30,000 a year cut on unemployment. That money helped me stay alive and pay my bills feed my kids and put gas in my car. Now I go from a 60,000 a year job, to 24,000 in unemployment now I am going on welfare. WOW, if this is the Amercian dream I am living it.

    January 15, 2014 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  21. imonacan

    So how long is this "cooling off period" ..until February, after another GD vacation ? Get it done, for the sakes of people that are hurting, desperate,, stressed out, and still looking. I'm one of them, at age 54. This should be the wind down years, after working for almost 40.. Never this stressful, and never needed any FED bennies, until now

    January 15, 2014 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  22. LeeLee

    (TEARS) The governments EGO is bigger than their hearts. No Love for the people NONE !!! Swim or drown Is what they offer to their own people.

    January 15, 2014 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  23. Drew

    Dems are loosers Republicans are the Winners they always get what they want.

    January 15, 2014 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  24. Rose Marie

    This is a disgrace that permeates all perceived boundaries. I worked in middle management for two huge American corporations for 27 straight years before being laid off last May. All that time of course, contributing to unemployment insurance – which helped for 7 months and now is gone. Finding a position in today's world is not an easy task. One needs to take courses on networking and social media simply to learn how to navigate; not to mention pay on-line sites to be included along with tens of thousands of other candidates. Add to that what being of a certain age and experience does to your changes. It's the perfect storm. And now hard-working Americans are cut off from assistance after a lifetime of giving due to some prejudiced knuckleheads who seem to believe unemployed = lazy.

    January 15, 2014 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  25. #A Citizen

    I need help now. It is not my fault that my job was eliminated. Now scrabbling to find something with no hope in sight to feed my family. What a sad place to be.

    January 15, 2014 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
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