Extending unemployment benefits stumbles in Senate
January 14th, 2014
04:32 PM ET
4 years 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. Name andrea

    i have a job i thank god for that,but there are people out there who are trying to find work and cant its really sad,most worked all their lives and this is the outcome of that,what if the shoe were on the other foot and those republicans who voted against EUB,i would love to see them to try to live a month without any pay and see how hard it is,they have no heart because they have a job so what do they care,and if obama wanted to he can enforce that bill to be passed if he cared so much he needs to show he cares and enforce that bill to be passed asap!!!!

    January 15, 2014 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  2. JTA

    It amazes me that anyone would want to serve in the military for this country. I served and now I am asking the gov. to help me. I am done, I will not spend a dime on either party. I'm done voting!!! I don't know how these people sleep at night. The big issue now is not unemployment, it's whether or not the severely overweight governor of New Jersey purposely created a traffic jam. You all make me sick!!!

    January 15, 2014 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  3. Announmous

    Here is idea...if the Government doesn't want to help us right now, don't help the Goverment. Don't look for a job they are not paying us anyway. If we don't work, they can't tax us. Let's punish them like they are punishing us!!

    January 15, 2014 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  4. Brian

    I am with the the folks who will not contribute to any political party ever again. 35 years working and never asking for anything from our government and now due to company layoffs out of work since June, applied to over 400 jobs with a 50% pay cut and willing to take entry level just to get my foot in the door with a company with no luck. 58 years old with plenty of experience and if age discrimination is not happening the I don't know what is. I blame both parties who are only concerned with making the other party look bad and not finding a middle ground without pointing fingers at each other, I also blame the president for not getting more involved with this issue and bringing both sides together for a solution to help these people, I guess as a taxpayer its frustrating to see our tax dollars go to every corner of world to help people and when hard working individuals need help at home it goes by the wayside. I may never vote again as what is going on in Washington is ridiculous and petty for people who are supposed to lead this country, Glad my tax dollars are covering their golden pensions, perks and healthcare for life, just not right

    January 15, 2014 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  5. Jennifer

    All of us that lost our unemployment spent our money. When you nothing to budget you can't budget. There will be then 1.5 million people not spending a dime since we don't have it and then welfare is going to go up, then what I get on welfare and they cut that too. Get ready people, no money = no shopping. no shopping =more store's out of business.

    January 15, 2014 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  6. Rudy NYC


    I am with the the folks who will not contribute to any political party ever again. ... ... I may never vote again as what is going on in Washington is ridiculous and petty for people who are supposed to lead this country, Glad my tax dollars are covering their golden pensions, perks and healthcare for life, just not right.
    Sorry to hear that you've fallen on difficult times. I'm also sorry to hear that you wish to take yourself out of the political process. Consider that path carefully, because once you do go down that road then you will have no right to complain about what the politicians will or will not do. You will have no voice at all if you do not vote.

    January 15, 2014 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  7. jjs

    Can I pleas have another chunk of coal Mr. Senator?

    January 15, 2014 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  8. Can't feed my family

    This is just crazy... I had to go to a food pantry to feed my kids today.. I need this income and all I can do is wait. 😦

    January 15, 2014 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  9. Al

    Without my unemployment benefits, I have a choice now...do I want to be on Welfare or be homeless?

    January 15, 2014 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  10. Name King John

    The majority of them in congress are millionaires! Those who dont support an extension for one reason or another they don't care. Their bills will be paid and they will recess while those who really need the help gets shafted. If your not unemployed you still should be concerned because the moral thing to do is too talk about it and keep it fresh on Americans minds just to let congress know those people are not alone and it could be you one day in need. Those people where tax payers until the unfortunate happened to them. Now congress has turned their backs on them.

    January 15, 2014 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  11. Alex Benzuk

    Congress is such a joke! Take away their mansions, vacations, etc. See how they like it! I am sellind furniture, to pay bills.

    January 15, 2014 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  12. Joe

    I have been laid off and finding a job has been awful. Well at least a job that pays decent, most companies are offering minimum wage for hard labor which will not even cover my truck payment. I did not ask to lose my job and all I want to do is work again. Thank you congress because I will most likely be losing my truck because I cannot pay for it while I search for work.

    January 15, 2014 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  13. Al

    By the way, I am 63. I know Age Discrimination is illegal, but it happens every day. I certainly won't vote for anyone in Congress who opposes extending benefits. What I'd like to see is Congress living on unemployment benefits. Vote them out, freeze their millions, and see if they can live on what we live on, or now, don't live on.

    January 15, 2014 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  14. David

    I've never collected unemployment over my 40years of working. I now need and politicians want to play politics, while I go down in flames on programs they set up to make me fail. Big business dumps high end employees and calls it restructuring. Saving money and hiring cheap labor. This way they make it difficult for anyone to file age discrimination.
    I'm a veteran who gave service to my country and this is how I'm treated. Large business and politicians control the country. I do agree there are people who abuse the system. FIX that issue and don't penalize everyone.

    January 15, 2014 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  15. Name concerned and distraught

    living in the Northeast would love to have any one of these folks try to worry about keeping the heat on while eating peanut butter and jelly for dinner these people are supposed to represent us and be committed to our well-being which obviously they are self centered and oblivious to the working man without a job I would gladly accept any one of their addresses who will keep my family in myself warm with a nice warm meal and see them trade places for just one evening

    January 15, 2014 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  16. Sam

    Problem is these damn republicans care about themselves and not the working class. Overpaid morons. Thanks for screwing us. I lost my job to no fault of my own, finding new comparable employment takes time. I will not be voting for republicans. Enjoy your lives with your your million dollar a year lifestyle. Next time the government shuts down they should take your money away lets see how you like it.

    January 15, 2014 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  17. Timothy Lance

    Mr president step up to congress time to turn up the heat. This is morally wrong. Please help extend our benefits ASAP. This is the 2nd week with no money. I'm living on Roman noodles.

    January 15, 2014 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |
  18. Pam

    This is a disgrace. How can I do any more than I've done to try and find work? Now I will have no car to even look. How do I feed my kids? How do I keep a roof over our head? I have worked for 42 years and now face being homeless. We can send billions of dollars to other countries but can't take care of our own? SHAME on you.

    January 15, 2014 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  19. Name concerned and distraught

    PS they supposedly just got what you call back to work already next week they're taking a recess paid by my tax dollar good job fellers our government at work

    January 15, 2014 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |
  20. Danielle

    Right Now I am going to urge all of you who have had your benefits cut to go to your local walfare office and apply to aid. Don't be ashamed. Congress is not ashamed, you should not be either. We need to show them the math on this. Welfare benefits is way more than unemployment. I just got back. It was full in there. I was not embarrassed. It was casual. I didn't put on any make up so that I would blend in.

    January 15, 2014 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |

    I strongly think that congress needs to go WITHOUT until something gets resolved!!! Lets see what they would do then!!! My husband has always worked and is a union member and gets laid off from time to time...and now because he cannot extend his benifits and a family of 6...I am not sure what we are going to do....And still cannot get anything through his union that he has been with forever. That should say something to congress...He is a 50 something man and I know for a fact that he cannot just go get a job!!! They most likely will not hire him because of his age. He should not have to start over at this point in his life. Not lazy!!! And never has been LAZY!!!! Get it together people!!!!! Both DEM and Rep are at fault...think of all the families!!!!! I AM SO DISGUSTED TO SAY THAT PEOPLE IN POWER TREAT OTHER PEOPLE LIKE THIS!!!

    January 15, 2014 02:18 pm at 2:18 pm |
  22. Mel Stricker

    'Cooling Off Period"?
    What the hell is that?
    Do people who need to pay bills have a "Cooling Off Period"?
    This is unconscionable.
    All this over Policy and Process? Are this people in Congress nuts.

    Before I get all sorts of relies about my needing a 'handout'
    I work and make a good living so I am not waiting for this.

    January 15, 2014 02:21 pm at 2:21 pm |
  23. Upset American

    I feel as an unemployed american that the government doesn't care about us!! They only care about getting their checks the 1st and 15th of every month! But they don't take into consideration that their own family members may be in the same fate of not receiving benefits as well!! Just a bunch of greedy as white and black republicans!!!!

    January 15, 2014 02:29 pm at 2:29 pm |
  24. Annoyed

    These clowns just came back from "vaction", and now they're taking a recess while people are scrambling to pay their bills & keep warm? Boy, talk about screwing the people over with no jobs!. This country is going to hell in a handbasket with their help. Nice work!

    January 15, 2014 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  25. bryan

    where does it stop 26 weeks 52 weeks or 100 weeks I would be looking the very day I lost my job sorry vacation is over time to take what you can get

    January 15, 2014 02:34 pm at 2:34 pm |
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