Extending unemployment benefits stumbles in Senate
January 14th, 2014
04:32 PM ET
9 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. eric

    My wife and i have lost our unemployment . We have three young children and my wife has just started a new job but cannot get there because her last unemployment check was stopped by this heartless government. How can you go to work when you cant get out of the house. My wife and I feel like prisoners in this country they say has freedom. This is not a united states because the government is not united.

    January 14, 2014 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  2. QS

    How do conservatives justify yanking assistance for those who need it before they've even whispered a word about taking on the issues that might actually make a difference in those peoples' lives like increasing minimum wage, ending subsidies for big industry, ending tax cuts for the wealthy, etc...?

    Seems logical to me that before you put people in an even worse position you first try to do something about the system that has caused so many people to find themselves in that position through no fault of their own.

    But, as I'm slowly starting to understand, logic + conservatism = oxymoron.

    January 14, 2014 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  3. DC Johnny

    Why not just make the unemployment benefits permanent? Along with birth control and welfare and everything else?

    That way more and more of us can live off of the fewer and fewer productive members of society forever*.

    (forever* being until China and the Fed's loose monetary policy run their course and our country literally goes bankrupt)

    January 14, 2014 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  4. Marc

    He doesn't. Harry Reid will not allow Republicans to have any say but cutting off amendments. So Republicans are saying if they don't get a say you don't get a vote.

    January 14, 2014 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  5. fastfreddie

    Doesn't all workers pay into unemplyement Insurance? where does that $$ go?

    January 14, 2014 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  6. Jason

    EUC benefits should be extended on a state by state basis. Some states, like North Dakota, absolutely don't need it. Others, like Nevada, are in dire need. Perhaps the states should step up to the plate.

    January 14, 2014 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  7. Crampon

    The federal extension is already tied to each states unemployment rate, this was done years ago. Besides, Obama fixed the economy.

    January 14, 2014 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  8. Romney is STILL NOT My Hero

    This is looking very bad for Americans. I expect riots and shootings.

    January 14, 2014 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  9. Rosa

    GOP doesn't care about long term effects on the economy or about the unemployed period, long or short term. It's obviously the unemployed persons fault for not getting that one job that 1,000 people applied for.

    January 14, 2014 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  10. Wade

    Since the SENATE is controlled and riled by DEMS of course CNN places this story in POLITICS to protect the dems.

    January 14, 2014 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  11. don in albuquerque

    Does this surprise anyone? Most worthless congress in history.

    January 14, 2014 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  12. dc

    This article is saying basically it was stalled by the Republicans.... How is this possible when the Democrats control the Senate? Looks like a LOT of Dems don't want it to me......... or King Harry would be able to push it through....

    January 14, 2014 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
  13. liberal disease

    this would be the the time to unleash those shovel ready jobs

    January 14, 2014 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
  14. Natty

    They can take their time with this while these families don't know if they will eat or have a place to live due to lack of funds. US sends money everywhere, but refuses to help their own American people. We pay your salaries and vote for you. Please consider this and what no income means for the American struggling families. Should these families tell their landlords can you please wait until politicians decide whether we will have a place to live on February 1st? In American, Americans should be first.

    January 14, 2014 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
  15. shorn

    Because he's a Republican.

    January 14, 2014 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
  16. DanInKy

    Here's how you pay for it. Drop government subsidies for the banking and oil industries. These parasitic industries make money hand over fist and we subsidize executive salaries and bonuses. I see those big ticket items in the budget agreement from a few weeks back, but nothing for the long-term unemployed, military families, people on food stamps, etc. Reprehensable.

    January 14, 2014 05:05 pm at 5:05 pm |
  17. GB

    Have the federal govt immediately begin requiring American citizens to be hired into the ranks the post office and other bureaus when they hire, having priority over immigrants, then work smartly to pair those receiving UE benefits with those empty posts...why can't we be smart about this and match able-bodied-citizen to empty federal, state, and city jobs??? Immigrants and non english speakers should be 2nd or 3rd in line over our own citizens. This isn't rocket science. You cannot simultaneously hire immigrants into positions that U.S. citizens should be occupying and give out benefits to citizens who simply won't apply for those jobs. It's not fair to the working Joe who has to pay for those extended benefits. (by the way..I am for UE benefits...just not extensions that go out this far).

    January 14, 2014 05:05 pm at 5:05 pm |
  18. Anthony

    Why don't yall walk in our shoes and go with out food for your family because you can't. find a job because most of them call for a high school education.

    January 14, 2014 05:06 pm at 5:06 pm |
  19. Sam

    its time to vote the Republicans out. We never had to rely on unemployment until my husband and myself both lost our jobs. Now I am working at a $9.00 an hour job and he still hasn't found a job. The GOP is going to give us no choice but go on welfare. VOTE THEM OUT! This is our chance to get them out of office We are getting evicted. Thank you GOP for ruining so many peoples life's.

    January 14, 2014 05:06 pm at 5:06 pm |
  20. Lynn

    For crying out loud, zero out every penny of foreign aid. Why is that give away money never mentioned?

    January 14, 2014 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  21. BeenThereDoneThat

    Folks needing UI were once TAX-PAYING EMPLOYEES! Those 1.3m should vote DEMOCRAT in Nov & STOP voting for Repulsivecans!

    January 14, 2014 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  22. Howard

    I guess I'll be moving in with my parents this Saturday after all.

    January 14, 2014 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  23. Jimmy

    Harry Reid, the slithering snake comes from under the rock once again.

    January 14, 2014 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  24. Kate111

    Sad, Republicans won't do for the least of us what they do for themselves.

    January 14, 2014 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  25. timverba

    "Federal checks kick in when state unemployment benefits are exhausted."

    Okay, now we can leave this solution to the Republican governors to craft a solution. If these type of solutions are better left to the states, as the Republican Party has been saying for the past five years, I wonder what has been taking the States so long to craft a solution to employ their residents in the first place.

    January 14, 2014 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
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