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. john

    I can't believe they are placing this emergency on the back burner. What are you all thinking? This is our lives here. Employers are cutting back going lean eliminating job positions. This was my first time on unemployment, I have always worked and provided for my family. This is a hardship I thought I was being helped until I got back to work. You just pulled the carpet from underneath me. My unemployment only paid for bare necessities to live. Now I may lose my phone, internet service, and car. I am very depressed by all this.

    January 15, 2014 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
  2. VirginiF1

    King Louis and Marie Antoinette would fit in perfectly in today's Congress..
    All of the taxes I've paid in my life will cover the pension of just one Senator.
    Getting re-elected is their only focus.
    God help us all...

    January 15, 2014 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  3. POTUS

    Please have another conference regarding this ASAP. Relieve the worry from 2.3 million. Make something happen.

    January 15, 2014 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  4. Conservative Utah14

    I urge all who are affected by this lack of responsibility in the senate to swarm the offices and telephones of their senators while on recess. I'm a republican and I care about my fellow Americans who are hurting out there. This is disgraceful. I will need to rethink my affiliation to the party I identify with. Both are at fault but stonewalling much needed assistance, really?

    January 15, 2014 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  5. To Bryan

    It ends when the economy is sufficient. There are not even enough jobs available for all of us.

    January 15, 2014 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  6. Afraid

    I worked for the same Company for over 30 years and paid UI tax for that long. After all those years the department was outsourced and I was layed off. This is the first time in my life I have ever used any kind of government money and I am very disappointed and scared as I am only able to collect for 6 months which will be end soon. I am vigrously looking for work everyday and get more depressed and anxiety and desperation sets in when I think about how to put a roof and food on the table in a few weeks...Help the people that for reason out of there control now need yours!!!

    January 15, 2014 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  7. Robb

    Leave it to the rich and shameless to take my benefits from me and other jobless people.

    January 15, 2014 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  8. Michael From MO

    I am a parent of 2 little girls, Trying to keep a roof over their heads with $200 unemployment was hard enough. Now I don't even get that, After looking for a Auto tech job for months I started training in a new field. My training is not complete and now I cant even do that. I am out of options, I am now forced to sell my car, My only means of transportation to pay my bills.. I am going tomorrow to fill out for FOODSTAMPS and WELFARE, Healthcare for the kids, It makes me sick... I guess I will now be a drain 3 systems now instead of just UI "THAT I EARNED FOR WORKING AT THE SAME PLACE FOR 10 YEARS" I am not lazy!!! This would have been my 2nd week of Government UI and with only 4 weeks left in my new job training. I am forced to stop now with no gas money, I have to feed my children first and somehow pay my bills

    January 15, 2014 02:53 pm at 2:53 pm |
  9. Michele Matranga

    Are these people for real. Extend unemployment, how do you think theses people are suppose to live! They will have to go on welfare to get by so what is the difference really! Come on, help reinstate and get these people help until they are back to work?

    January 15, 2014 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
  10. erin

    I will never vote for a republican ever again! My 40 years of doing so are over. Wack job Repbulicans. Can't wait til THEY ARE OUT OF WORK!!!!

    January 15, 2014 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
  11. Conservative Utah14

    I love all the take what you can get comments. Really? Those long term unemployed are generally skilled workers who not for lack of trying haven't been able to find a new job at even half the previous salary. You are saying to just take what you can get even if it doesn't pay the rent/ mortgage, child care other bills etc. at less than unemployment income. Well I say to those unemployed to go to the welfare office and apply there. My republican buddies are messed up in the head. I am certain if it were their family member they would feel sympathy for them but screw everyone else since they are obvious deadbeats right!!
    I am a republican voter and to be sure will be voting for alternative candidates this November. To leave Americans hanging while on recess is absolutely unacceptable. Cut some of that foreign aid to pay for it if that's what it takes. I'm tired of seeing these fols suffering, it's time to step up and take care of the people in our own country.
    My new motto for 2014: clean house in 2014-vote!!!

    January 15, 2014 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
  12. Jarmeze

    It's sad because they are saying they doesn't. Have the funds to cover unemployment benefits I don't know why because the u.s is a rich country they use the money on what they want to charge people high taxes. Leave 1.4 million Americans homeless but we suppose to be united I don't see how.

    January 15, 2014 03:01 pm at 3:01 pm |
  13. erin

    And by the way if any of you wack job senators are reading any of these blogs on your VACATION (again), making 450 a week in California hardly holds a candle to the previous 2200.00 per week i made working very hard before i was LAID off for the first time in 40 years working my butt off for 22 of those. Glad i paid all those taxes to pay your salary. I am very angry.

    January 15, 2014 03:04 pm at 3:04 pm |
  14. age discrimination

    I feel so very discouraged in my country right now I was always proud to be from here and helped many. This is the first time I was unemployed the company eliminated position but I have worked since I was 14 and tried to help as many as I could. So now I am older first job I ever lost in over 30 years and all I see is people attacking each other with awful comments about others. My father was a marine and served this country he never made it to see any benefits nor did he rely on them when he was alive. I have a disabled daughter that I care for every day because I love her so how do I tell her the lights will be shut off or she cant have her fruit she likes when I have applied for over 10 jobs a week and more for the last 6 months and now its too bad .. how very sad I feel. I wonder if companies and employers would feel this way if it was their mother.

    January 15, 2014 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  15. mike nichols

    I am so sick of this Govt. It paid to keep us poor... We can find jobs ... you can spend money on big dinners for yourselves but forget about the ppl that are now going without ....that just wrong...Damn it !!!!!

    January 15, 2014 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  16. Richard Bulden

    TO Whom it may concern
    I want to know why There not going to extend the Unemployment benefits so that 1.3 Million people can feed there Family's and pay there Bills, I been out of Work since June 27th 2013 because PETRI'S CLOSED There Doors and I been there for 5 years and 8 Months, I wanna know why the Government is still getting there checks while everybody else is without an income coming in? Doesn't anyone care about us at all? And once our cellphone phones get disconnected then how do they expect millions of people to get phone calls for jobs and How do they expect millions of people to go for there job interview without there vehicles when there insurance is cancelled because of no income coming in? Please pass the Unemployment benefits Extension so that we can keep our cellphone phones on and so the we can pay our Bills.

    January 15, 2014 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  17. Our of a job

    Well Bryan I HAVE been looking since I was job eliminated in March 2013 and it's not easy to find work for a woman of 49 years of age and who worked and PAID UE INSURANCE TAX to find a job!! If you've never been in this situation keep your comments to yourself!!

    January 15, 2014 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
  18. Aisha Edwards

    This makes no sense, I had a job however they went bankrupt! So this is my fault, as well my family should suffer since I haven't found a job as of yet. The Senate just left us out to die. I thought America thought more of there people then this. Now I maybe be homeless because the Senate can't reach common ground. While they are eating well and have no worries. Thanks Senate!!!

    January 15, 2014 03:16 pm at 3:16 pm |
  19. Namesandy

    My husband has been looking everyday and putting resumes/applications and it's been 7 months and not one thing. Pretty bad when you can't even get a fast food job. He has a masters degree. We have 3 kids too at home

    January 15, 2014 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
  20. J anet henderson

    Why are you people still in office you apperantly donot care About your people there losing there homes bills not getting payed no food you should be ashamed of yourselfs And how do you sleep at night i am totally discussed with all of are congress

    January 15, 2014 03:19 pm at 3:19 pm |
  21. Rudy NYC


    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
    The unemployment rate in your state determines when it stops. Here's hoping that you don't lose your job. Did you know that the minimum wage is so low that you'd be better off going on welfare and food stamps than working a 30 hour per week minimum wage job?

    January 15, 2014 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  22. Anonymous

    Congress is not for the average American anymore; yet we keep voting these clowns back into office! Why; why do we continue to do this. Congressmen are making tons of money on the side!

    January 15, 2014 03:32 pm at 3:32 pm |
  23. Bobby Williams

    Congress is not for the average American anymore; yet we keep voting these clowns back into office! Why; why do we continue to do this. Congressmen are making tons of money on the side!

    January 15, 2014 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  24. Name Doreen

    I am so over all things political! Time to wake up and realize that these are real people that are being affected by this, not just numbers and statistics. Shame on these elected officials for not being able to find a solution! Tonight as you are tucking your children into bed or are sitting down to dinner, just remember all of the people who will be losing their homes and will not be able to put food on the table.

    January 15, 2014 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  25. Raymond Gillyard

    It is amazing that the terms of the bill, are so easy to bend, for those that are not effected. Every day that the elected officials take to mitigate and come to a reasonable solution, that is another day that others are placed into the line of fire. The one thing that our elected officials need to comprehend is that I worked hard to receive unemployment. Unlike being approved for public assistance or copping out and applying for early social security. I and others are still willing and able to work.

    January 15, 2014 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
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