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. David

    "You can GOP/Tea Party folks if you really care about American families who need to put food on the table?" the democrats didn't offer to cut anything, they just wanted to spend more to put another $7B on top of the $440B deficit and $17T debt. get a clue len, you're just another low information voter

    January 14, 2014 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |
  2. Brian

    Wait a minute now. Liberal and CNN (but I repeat myself) are always telling me Obama fixed the economy. So is the economy fixed or do we need these?

    January 14, 2014 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |
  3. ObamaCares!

    Republicans once again show they are cold-hearted, but we already knew that....
    Is there any example of when the Republicans were for a bill that benefited the middle-class and Democrats were against that same bill?

    January 14, 2014 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |
  4. Clever1

    Republicans don't want to fund Democratic states' unemployment problems.

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

    How were they able to find 85.4 billion to waste in Afghanistan?????

    January 14, 2014 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  6. edward fox

    now where does that leave me and people in the same boat has me I do got a job here in pa and I cant do my kinda work during the winter and because of are government tom passed new laws to make it harder for people like me that have a job and rely on this to get by when we get laidoff during the winter to claim and im told after 13 years that I cant claim and now this this is unreal I have 2 kids and a wife with a house payment a car payment plus all the other bills something has to change for people in my shoes I have a recall back date to go back to work and then when I was turned down for my unemployment after 13 years of collecting because of the high percent rate 49.5% here in pa wont allow me to collect what do I do I don't have any money to even go looking for a job I guess ill just lose everything while they get richer unreal and I know my voice doesn't even matter I give up on are government cant count on u

    January 14, 2014 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  7. desperatelylookingforwork

    To blakenaustin....you say good and want to put requirements on unemployment. How about putting requirements on those that receive welfare, most of which have never worked a day in their life. Those of us that are on unemployment have worked and paid taxes. 26 weeks may not be enough, especially those of us that are over qualified and having a hard time funding a job because no one wants to hire those that are over qualified. Obviously, im willing to do the job for the pay posted if i applied for it. Being over qualified should NOT be a reason not to hire them.

    January 14, 2014 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  8. Mike

    Money goes into economy. Helps millions of families with children. Helps our fellow Americans. Now tell me just how in the hell you can vote against this? You want it paid for go cut some of those corporate welfare payments to the true TAKERS in this country.

    January 14, 2014 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  9. Keith

    starve them out, the Republican way

    January 14, 2014 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  10. Bob

    End it already!! I don't need my tax dollars going to people to lazy to help themselves. There is work out there, the lazy just choose not to do it.

    January 14, 2014 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |
  11. ewolcott3

    I guerantee anyone who voted against helping their constiuents will have a difficult time in the election. People are now more than 2 weeks behind while living week to week in these strapped times.

    January 14, 2014 05:28 pm at 5:28 pm |
  12. John

    Lover how the liberals spin this, Rep. and Dem had hammered out a deal for 3 month extention Reid is the one coming in with the entire year extention. Look there is nothing wrong with a helping hand but unemployement has already been extended and would have been extended yet 3 more months. Those filled with outrage look no further than Reid he is the one who threw a wrench into the agreement.

    January 14, 2014 05:29 pm at 5:29 pm |
  13. Martha in CF

    Maybe Ted Cruz should pay for the unemployment extension. He wasted more money shutting down the government. I say cut Congress's pay big time and give it to the unemployed. They are only doing their job a third of the time, if that!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    January 14, 2014 05:29 pm at 5:29 pm |
  14. IA

    Interesting that Independents and Republicans are lock-step in the polls on this. That is not a partisan statement just an observation.

    January 14, 2014 05:29 pm at 5:29 pm |
  15. ni2sense

    Shame on the Senate, shame, shame, shame. And they keep asking the question: Do you think the economy is headed in the right direction? As long as those do-nothings in Congress are in office the answer is no, no and no.

    January 14, 2014 05:30 pm at 5:30 pm |
  16. littlepeaks

    We can pay for it by eliminating over 7 billion dollars in tax subsides to big green energy companies! You can Democratic folks if you really care about American families who need to put food on the table?

    January 14, 2014 05:30 pm at 5:30 pm |
  17. clandolf

    After being laid off for two years and not finding a job, I now have no income, have gone through most of my 401K and now owe the government $7,500! How ironic! I have no money to live on but owe the government money!! So desperate at this point, they have to help us!

    January 14, 2014 05:30 pm at 5:30 pm |
  18. Ryan in Texas

    If unemployment helps the economy, then why are any of us working?
    We should put everyone on unemployment and the economy would do great, right?

    January 14, 2014 05:31 pm at 5:31 pm |
  19. Jodo

    obama doesn't care about the middle class or the unemployed. If he did, he would have given up his three week Hawaiian vacation or a few of his trips to Africa and redirected those funds to job training or other benefits for the needy.

    But obama only cares about obama and is all too happy to spend the taxpayer's money on his leisure pursuits

    January 14, 2014 05:31 pm at 5:31 pm |
  20. ozzy3_97

    We are squabbling about scraps when we should be focused on the bigger picture...:(
    NAFTA must go. It is abused by corporations and government is powerless to do anything...:(

    We are supporting their effort by buying imported goods (we are our own worst enemy)..:(

    We neglect ourselves. We are the market and corporations depend on the market. Business begins because of profit. Worker generate products so business realizes profit...:(

    We have leverage but we neglect using it because we don't want to say we can't get this today because it isn't ..."Made in America".....we have convinced ourselves, the media has convinced us and the government has convinced us that....everything is OK....It's not

    There are 3 more free trade agreements not even mention. Panama, South Korea and Colombia. They will further increase corporate profits while further erode Americas economy...:(

    The reason there's not fair wage is because they don't have to give it. They never gave it unless they were made to. They were made to because the market wouldn't sit back, united and gained a voice. Then and only then did they share the profits....:(

    That voice for the people was destroyed by media, government and corporate manipulation and fear tactics. While they were reducing wages they gave us a way to retain some. They blamed Union dues for taking our pay and we bit. They claimed Union was to blame for losing jobs...and we bit...:(

    They blamed Unions for destroying opportunity and work and....we bit..:(

    We stopped and ignored the only voice of the working man in America. We threw away the only leverage we had and we did it because we were told to by corporate America, government and the media...:(

    We know it and it's time we reversed it. We have paid dearly for this mistake. We have lost jobs, incomes and our way of life is eroding....:(

    End free trade because it is corrupt trade and regain our voice. Unite and stand up....:)

    We must if we are going to leave anything for our future, our children's future and their children's future....JMO

    January 14, 2014 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
  21. ozzy3_97

    NAFTA must go. It is abused by corporations and government is powerless to do anything...:(

    We are supporting their effort by buying imported goods (we are our own worst enemy)..:(

    We neglect ourselves. We are the market and corporations depend on the market. Business begins because of profit. Worker generate products so business realizes profit...:(

    We have leverage but we neglect using it because we don't want to say we can't get this today because it isn't ..."Made in America".....we have convinced ourselves, the media has convinced us and the government has convinced us that....everything is OK....It's not

    There are 3 more free trade agreements not even mention. Panama, South Korea and Colombia. They will further increase corporate profits while further erode Americas economy...:(

    The reason there's not fair wage is because they don't have to give it. They never gave it unless they were made to. They were made to because the market wouldn't sit back, united and gained a voice. Then and only then did they share the profits....:(

    That voice for the people was destroyed by media, government and corporate manipulation and fear tactics. While they were reducing wages they gave us a way to retain some. They blamed Union dues for taking our pay and we bit. They claimed Union was to blame for losing jobs...and we bit...:(

    They blamed Unions for destroying opportunity and work and....we bit..:(

    We stopped and ignored the only voice of the working man in America. We threw away the only leverage we had and we did it because we were told to by corporate America, government and the media...:(

    We know it and it's time we reversed it. We have paid dearly for this mistake. We have lost jobs, incomes and our way of life is eroding....:(

    End free trade because it is corrupt trade and regain our voice. Unite and stand up....:)

    We must if we are going to leave anything for our future, our children's future and their children's future....JMO

    January 14, 2014 05:33 pm at 5:33 pm |
  22. Me

    Lydia

    I dislike Republicans so much that I have not one nice thing to say about them, any of them!!
    _____________
    You do realize this was the doings of Dems right???? You just can't fix stupid!! LMFAO PS NO ONE likes you and no one care about your opinion!

    January 14, 2014 05:34 pm at 5:34 pm |
  23. STJ

    In Florida.... I will remember not to vote for ANY REPUBLICANS !!!! Rubio, Scott, and any other GOP, can forget about my vote.

    January 14, 2014 05:34 pm at 5:34 pm |
  24. BO

    It appears the free ride is over. Get a job or don't eat.

    January 14, 2014 05:37 pm at 5:37 pm |
  25. aj2maj2m

    I am not against drug testing people if ALL people in government are tested under the same standards! Anybody recieving money from the Government should be held to the same standards...

    January 14, 2014 05:37 pm at 5:37 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23