Extending unemployment benefits stumbles in Senate
January 14th, 2014
04:32 PM ET
8 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. 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. Every week I certify for these benifits, and every week the total of what I will receive climbs.

    January 15, 2014 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  2. Name concerned and distraught

    can someone please tell me how we get this back in the mainstream news instead of George Washington Bridge closings and local government or state governors and whatever other trivia news that we really don't care about so the American people could see what our government is up to

    January 15, 2014 03:45 pm at 3:45 pm |
  3. Name concerned and distraught

    hey what's your sign up for Obamacare and when they say or try to find us when we can't or don't pay for it will tell him our unemployment ran out

    January 15, 2014 03:47 pm at 3:47 pm |
  4. Name

    How.. people really need thst now is not a good tine for that

    January 15, 2014 03:47 pm at 3:47 pm |
  5. bryan

    in reply I lost my job march 8th I am 50 years old not much education was raised to work hard and take no hand outs had a job on march 14th half the pay but I will work my way back up. but I do understand people with children it is very hard you have to take what ever help is out there.but mostly I am talking about grown men who treat unemployment like a paid vacation and I know a lot of them.im very sorry if I offened anyone who is truly working hard to get a job you know who you are good luck

    January 15, 2014 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
  6. Melvin

    They have numerous of programs and out of all of them they decided that the people who were working before would be the ones to pay and I thought this was united states we the people as an WE are the people remember that ? but hold up you guys could take a week of vacation to "cool off" ? yeah cuss you got no worries on where will your family sleep cuss we the people pay you arrogant republicans and democrats HAVE A NICE WEEK OFF WHILE 1.4 MILLION PEOPLE STARVE OR EVEN WORST COMMIT CRIMES TO HELP THEIR OWN THE TRULLY ONES THAT ARE THERE WHEN WE NEED OUR FAMILYS NOT YOU PEOPLE WHO ONLY SEEMS TO THINK ABOUT YOURS INSTEAD OF WE AS A WHOLE

    January 15, 2014 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
  7. STJ Florida

    You know what? They are doing whatever they want. They don't care about us, but do care about the Lobbyist that fill their pockets. So my unemployment ended, my fiancee has been fighting with the unemployment office in Florida for 3 months now... and no payment, because of a new 64 million dollar website. Ironic !!! the idiot governor Rick Scott is a republican... LMAO.
    How about CNN doing a report on this travesty !

    January 15, 2014 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  8. Larry in Houston

    I'm sure these people have a lot of relatives – who are "voters" as well as they are....if it's affecting more than 1 million people, it's really affecting at least twice that, possibly more....too bad, but this is another issue that people will remember, come November 2014....

    ""Is Reid making a good faith effort to pass the bill, a reporter asked McConnell – "Of course not," he replied""

    it goes to show you how powerful the "mitch" really is....but I guess the people in Kentucky sees it differently....guess when you've got senators in your state who can bring in federal dollars for his state, they will continue to get the vote.

    January 15, 2014 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  9. NYS

    Nice how our Government can go on vacation leaving the ones who need their unemployment out to dry. The same Government who just got back from Vacation from Christmas. I would still have my job, had our Government not shut down my place of employment in student loans. Also I am a full time student who counts on my unemployment. Nice how they can eat tonight and their families dont gotta worry about where their next meal is coming from. We need to stop letting immigrants into the Country if we cant help support our own.

    January 15, 2014 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  10. NYS

    Also to add to my last post, I went down to apply for assistance and was denied emergency help because I am a full time student and Im not in work study program with a College I attend over 400 miles away. Im a full time online Criminal Justice student lol. I guess if you dont get off a boat and your born and raised in this Country you can kiss any help good-bye. But if you come on a boat they give you a house, assistance, tax free for 7 years, cars etc. Nice. If my ancestors knew what they were fighting and dying for they would would of thought twice about enlisting.

    January 15, 2014 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
  11. Michelle

    President Obama needs to step in right now and make them come to an agreement. The republicans are holding us hostage because they disagree with the democrats. That's not our problem stop your childish behaviors you blood sucking leeches and do your damn job. Were not in a 3rd world country we are Americans and with that show us some respect. Trust me after all this is said and done I guarantee that there will not be a republican as president for a long time!! It frustrates me that the there are over 1.3 million people without jobs and no money for food something we need to survive.

    January 15, 2014 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  12. CJ

    What can we do. Sit and wait. No benefits means the two interviews I have lined up next week will have to be cancelled. If I have to choose between gas or food, I'll choose food, everyday, any day. There's no shame with our elected officials. This should have been included in that superfluous bill the house passed today. We all know why that passed, if it hadn't they wouldn't be getting their paychecks. I would have preferred a government shutdown again. At least everyone would have to suffer.

    January 15, 2014 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  13. RealDoubt Again

    Perhaps the people of the United States should just change the channel and watch a different program. !?!? Or maybe they should riot in the streets . . .

    January 15, 2014 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  14. patti

    how may more ways does the government have up their sleeve to screw it's Americans?

    January 15, 2014 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  15. In need of my unemployment...

    It doesn't really matter to no one in the white house as long as their families are feed. The same way were needing you all right now. You all will need us next november. Remember that...

    January 15, 2014 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  16. DJML

    #1, I am for the revival as I am also suffering with the extension ceasing to exist.

    #2, I am sorry for sounding like a jerk when I say this.. But you guys that come on here with your horrible grammar, run on sentences, etc aren't really making much of a case. You can't use other words for words. No one is going to take you and me seriously if we come off like disabled 8 year olds when we type. Sorry, but that had to be said.

    Please stop posting on public forum(s) until you read over some basic grammar lessons, this is 2014, thank you.

    PS, I have always been and grew up poor with little to no support from the world and I still speak, write and type like a human being.

    January 15, 2014 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
  17. Matthew

    This is the brilliance of our government.

    I've been laid off twice in the past year with a degree in Computer Science, and I've put in at least 10 applications/resumes per day looking for work. I can't even get a call back from our local gas stations to get a job. I cut out almost everything I can without my two kids suffering, and my state unemployment ran out right as this policy ended. I will not be able to pay rent starting at the beginning of the month, and have exhausted my entire savings just to keep my phone and internet to apply for jobs over the past 6 months.

    I'm not one for free handouts, but I've worked and paid taxes from the time I was 16. My company's business was directly affected by government bills that were passed in the housing market (which is supposedly recovering) and they have put nearly 2/3 of their work force out of work. I've done my part to try to stay alive, and now the government that takes a large chunk out of every check I've ever made needs to do theirs.

    January 15, 2014 05:04 pm at 5:04 pm |
  18. Craig Hiter

    This is the reason why so many Americans are turned off by our government. Last week this was a sure thing, this week it is on the back burner because of political game playing. You are playing with the lives of 1.3 million Americans and their families. Now enough is enough! Get off of your butts, and do what is right for the American people, Anything else is secondary!!

    January 15, 2014 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  19. Name

    They rather help other countrys with trillions of dollars then help us here.

    January 15, 2014 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  20. Allison

    Im torn on it all. Im one of the ones affected by this. I had a long term job that came to an end. The dept of labor suggested going back to school under the 599 program. I would be able to collect unemployment while training. I borrowed money and became full time student. Now they have cut off my unemployment. Im several thousands of dollars in debt on top of regular bills and I have nothing toshow for it. I had to make a decision if I could afford to increase my debt this semester and find I wouldn't be able to continue . I was enrolled in both night day as well as online courses and needed to be able to accept whatever job came along. I now have no school, no job, no prospects. Ive worked my entire life to end up on the verge of losing everything. However, looking at this unselfish I see where bandages are not the answer. Everything the democrats are doing is meant to drive us all to more dependence on the government. I would prefer to have a job rather then at the age of 51 starting over in school or becoming dependent on a welfare program of sorts. As I sit here I commend the republicans for growing some balls but why oh why did it have to happen when I had to bring myself to go on unemployment? Why when politicians are intent on letting illegals break the rules of our land to work as well as get university for free an american whos worked their entire life gets hosed? This looks like rambling from my phone but I guess thats all anyone can do now.

    January 15, 2014 05:19 pm at 5:19 pm |
  21. Name

    People I dont think these republicans realize they are up for election soon, however its sad because the democrats arent any better, as a matter fact democrats are weak. Obama please grow a spine and push more for the people who elected you.

    January 15, 2014 05:22 pm at 5:22 pm |
  22. SICK

    I am so disappointed in our government as I sit here crying and sick in the stomach! I am currently unemployed and was actively seeking employment. I have never filed for an extension, however, this would have been the first but it has been denied. I was actively seeking employment and now I sit here with no money for gas, food, heating oil..etc. I cannot even afford milk for my 4-year-old. I HOPE THAT YOU THINK OF THIS WHILE YOU ARE ALL OFF ON YOUR NICE BREAK!!!!! You have no problem giving money to other countries but cannot help the US citizens that really need it. THANK YOU VERY MUCH! I filed for temporary emergency benefits through Pennsylvania, however I was denied because my husband has a very small income. Thank you and I hope you ALL ENJOY YOUR DINNER TONIGHT when you get home as we all set here WITHOUT any food and soon we will not have a roof over our head! I know I will not be voting anymore, what is the sense!!!!!

    January 15, 2014 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |
  23. D. Davis

    I like Michelle,s comments, I am a laid off from state government job trying to find another. Job but my age is the way. I received Three checks from the Federal Gov..I did get 26 weeks from the state.

    January 15, 2014 05:29 pm at 5:29 pm |
  24. Sandra

    How many Americans have to loose their homes and go hungry before our politicians realize that we are not charity cases but skilled people living in a nation where they continue to give away our jobs to other countries, and money to support other countries when we have so many people living below the poverty level right here. I have been looking for a job for 1 year and I am either over qualified or they are not hiring.... now what? Where are the jobs they say are out there? What has happened to our country and those that are supposed to be FOR US NOT AGAINST US? Maybe just maybe it is time for them to step off that hill in Washington and live as we do for awhile ..... God bless us, he is all we have at this point.

    January 15, 2014 05:30 pm at 5:30 pm |
  25. Will

    I can promise Ya one thing, when it comes Voting time, I'm keeping a list of all of em that Voted No and NOT voting for them. This is Ridiculous, they, their lobbyist, CEO Buddies, banks and movers behind the scenes have caused and continue to mis-managed this Country, allow big business to out-source overseas, make it difficult for SMB to get off the ground.. And as usual "We the people" have no recourse whatso-ever, because in reality, Voting Out this round of idiots, will only bring a new batch of over educated twits with no idea how REAL America runs..

    January 15, 2014 05:30 pm at 5:30 pm |
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