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. Sir

    I am a democrat and even I am happy that this didn't pass. We need 6 months for sure, a year maybe. 2 years.. come on now. I can get a job doing pushups with a cup collecting money if i were so motivated to do so.

    What we have is a bunch of people who gave up on life. Also in the 2 years they had off with free pay they didn't do a dang thing except go to the bar and cry oh wooo is me.

    Jobs are everywhere.. if you want them. And if they aren't in your hometown then move. This country has so much work and so many deadbeats saying its not there its crazy.

    January 14, 2014 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
  2. kathy

    This is just another sickening example of a Do Nothing Congress who refuses to pass ANYTHING that comes from the White House and Dems simply because they are obstructionists. How can anyone not have pity on these poor people, families and children who will not have enough money to pay their heating bills in winter, feed their famiily, pay the rent..etc. Most people on unemployment are not deadbeats who don't want to work...most are hard working people who would love to find a job again....this is a disgraceful move on the GOP/T-bgrs.
    I do believe people on long term welfare should contribute something to the city/state or community service after being on support for a year or two....pick up trash along the highways/remove graffiti from buildings/clean up and help maintain public parks etc. Unemployment should be to help people get back on their feet....but welfare should have limits...or as when FDR first initiated it....you'd have to give back to the gov't after a period of time. That's how a lot of roadwork and bridgework was done.

    January 14, 2014 05:39 pm at 5:39 pm |
  3. STJ

    If you voted for them... you need to rethink your VOTE.

    January 14, 2014 05:39 pm at 5:39 pm |
  4. dubrats

    this is what happens when the people that work to support your lazy azze ....run out of money...

    January 14, 2014 05:39 pm at 5:39 pm |
  5. Eleanor Fitzgerald

    We can stop spending more of defense than most other developed nations put together are spending. What are we arming ourselves for – War of the Worlds! We probably have enough stockpiled to destroy the planet at will. Who decided we should be Sparta with all jobs created focused on the military. How about spending creating non military jobs like improving infrastructure, health care research or anything else that benefits people instead of focusing on newer, faster, more efficient killing machines?

    January 14, 2014 05:40 pm at 5:40 pm |


    Nothing new here people, move along.....................

    January 14, 2014 05:40 pm at 5:40 pm |
  7. STJ

    No wonder, They are MILLIONAIRES

    January 14, 2014 05:40 pm at 5:40 pm |
  8. shadow bass

    Lock your doors extra welll tonite, that was the last hope for millions of hungry people.

    January 14, 2014 05:40 pm at 5:40 pm |
  9. John

    The GOP continues to construct its own coffin. The day is coming when the population as a whole THINKS, and wonders why any of these people are in any position of authority. When that day comes and they are swept out the door, I propose we cut off all their gratuitous benefits retroactively.

    January 14, 2014 05:40 pm at 5:40 pm |
  10. Gurgyl

    Obama cares, so only he wants this extension. It is congress to hurt passing jobs-Bill, why don't you ask congress thugs of GOP? Fuss on Obama? Nonsense. He is the president. Not a law making body...drive GOP garbage out. Evil goes away.

    January 14, 2014 05:40 pm at 5:40 pm |
  11. Silence DoGood

    @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?
    If casts and crutches help people with broken legs, why aren't we all in casts and on crutches?
    If we put everyone on crutches, no one would ever get a broken leg.
    ---- I realized why we are falling behind other countries in science and engineering. Pride in ignorance.

    January 14, 2014 05:40 pm at 5:40 pm |
  12. jp

    blake and phillip typical white trash conservative response. I know you two probably have never collected unemployment for reason you probably live on some farm down south, Keep milking those cows...losers

    January 14, 2014 05:41 pm at 5:41 pm |
  13. Steve Kasian

    If federal unemployment benefits go directly back into the economy (recipient pays grocer, grocer pays distributors, etc.), then why do any of the unemployed ever have to get a job again? Why don't we just keep paying tax dollars out to anyone who doesn't want to work and let them "fuel" the economy? It's all going right back in, right? Better yet, why don't we all just stop working and let the government pay us for existing? We'll still have bills to pay. And then if private industry suffers because there's nobody around to take the jobs, the government can take over all of the businesses that keep society going... and then we'll all be ok, because we can all get jobs with the government! Except for those of us who don't want to actually do any "work" for a living, that is. I mean, there are enough stupid people in the country who are willing to *work* for the rest of us... right?

    January 14, 2014 05:41 pm at 5:41 pm |
  14. dustin92sc

    Congress should not accept an extension from Barack Obama without a proposal on cash inflows to the federal budget. He cannot simply continue to raise national debt without revenue initiative.

    January 14, 2014 05:41 pm at 5:41 pm |
  15. Conservative SLC13

    As a republican voter I am ashamed that our elected officials (most of which are millionaires) would sacrifice the middle and lower class to force an agenda. The facts are that Unemployment was extended 13 times without covering those expenses, with I think 2 of those under Bush.

    It's a shame that I elected representatives who obviously don't know what it's like to live paycheck to paycheck. They don;t know what it's like to have to put bread on the table and keep a roof over a families head.

    I imagine some of those folks are already wondering what to do with that rent or mortgage payment that was due January first. Cant wait for the fallout come February. I am getting tired of the dame old story from career politicians and I'm no longer going to just vote the party I identify with most in ever again.

    January 14, 2014 05:42 pm at 5:42 pm |
  16. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    What's really sad is that while Repubes have been putting bullets in the Dem's guns for the past five years, the Dems are too stupid to use this free ammunition.
    Instead they rather play to the Repubes playbook and go on unncessary defense about the ACA.
    I mean for goodness sakes, who would NOT want to run against a Republican these days?
    Put this in your book under yet another heartless Republican maneuver,if that's how you want to spin it, load it into your campaign gun and start shooting!
    What's the use of having bullets if you won't use them to stay alive?!
    For cripes sakes Democraps.....

    January 14, 2014 05:42 pm at 5:42 pm |
  17. Weasley

    As usual, Republicans, who wear their Christianity on their shirtsleeve, fail to act like Christians.

    January 14, 2014 05:43 pm at 5:43 pm |
  18. New Start

    This is so degrading that the Republicans cannot help people who desperately need it.

    If they want ANY KIND of a vote in the future they will start thinking about the citizens in trouble instead of THEMSELVES. We are all hardworking people who have contributed in the past, and now.
    This is when we need help for additional funds ( only for 3 months ).

    January 14, 2014 05:43 pm at 5:43 pm |
  19. Me


    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.
    How is it republican's fault you lost your job???? If anything it is Dems fault, ya know they have been in office for over 5 years now!!!! Unless you lost your job more than 5 years ago and if that is the case you are not looking for a job then!!! Sorry to be so blunt but you brought it on by blame someone who is probably not to blame!!!! Bush has been gone for a long time now, Dems have been in charge (holds the majority) for over 5 years now, get a clue!

    January 14, 2014 05:43 pm at 5:43 pm |
  20. Scott

    Well what about the government shut down ? Did spending cuts pay for that? Republicans didn't demand cuts for that to happen. I find it interesting that all of the Republicans fight to say no when it's not exactly the way they want it . I was on unemployment for over a year. I landed a good job that I went to school for and paid 8 thousands dollars for . I got laid off because of the winter. I was working in an average of 60 hours a week paying my bills . Now I got the job in September the end of the 3 quarter and worked to the beginning of December. I make 15 an hr plus time in a half over 40 hrs . My gross income working 60 hours is $1050.00 a week that's over 12 thousands for 3 months. And as of the moment I can't get unemployment because of the I didn't make enough money . I go back to work in march I estimate I will make around 37 thousands in a 9 month time frame working around 60 hr a week . But according to Republicans people on unemployment are lazy. What's wrong with this picture? I would love to give Republicans in office a chance to see what kind of lazy I am.

    January 14, 2014 05:43 pm at 5:43 pm |
  21. Teresa F

    I am so tired of people who have not been part of this struggle giving their 2 cents about how lazy people are who collect unemployment. I am an educated person who has a degree. I am not striving for some huge salary. I am looking for something to simply pay the bills and that is not out there in my area. I hope all of you who say that these benefits are not needed are faced with the same problem. Maybe then you will understand the suffering that the rest of us are going through. It is not fun people!!!! I wouldn't want this life for myself but I am stuck. I am stuck with no way to pay rent next month, no way to buy food. So where does that leave me unless there is a miracle and I can actually find a job by then? Homeless, that's where. I am 38 years old and ALWAYS had a job, since I was 18. I have paid taxes, so getting help is not a free ride. I earned it!!!!!!!

    January 14, 2014 05:44 pm at 5:44 pm |
  22. sly

    Republicans do not like to help Americans.

    If you are one of the 50 million Americans, mostly war vet's, who are banned from Health Care: f-k you say the GOP.
    If you are unemployed, f-k you says the GOP.
    If you are a single mother on food stamps – f-k you says the GOP.

    That's how the rich roll. "Let them eat cake". Oh... spending cuts? How about we cut some military fat? NO say the GOP – that's 'our' welfare.

    January 14, 2014 05:44 pm at 5:44 pm |
  23. Silence DoGood

    It appears the free ride is over. Get a job or don't eat.
    I think that is a quote from the Sermon on the Mount in the New Testament. A lovely sentiment.

    January 14, 2014 05:45 pm at 5:45 pm |
  24. Nicole

    All you people that think that people on unemployment are lazy and don't want to work are so beyond wrong. I have been unemployed for a year I have applied for hundreds of jobs and been on 3 interviews. It is so beyond difficult to find a job that will pay you more than minimum wage and that will give you more than 25 hours a week (thank you obamacare). I am currently enrolled in school and have been denied part time jobs because of my school schedule (I go to school from 8-1 Monday thru Friday). And I refuse to give up my schooling because a company refuses to work around my school schedule. So to all if you sitting back working your high paying job and know where your next check is coming from I hope that you are NEVER in the position I am, but then again I hope at some point you are. Then you would know how it feels to be the 1.5 million tax paying hard working Americans that are affected by the extension cut.

    January 14, 2014 05:45 pm at 5:45 pm |
  25. trexbytes

    With this bad economy it is difficult even to find a bad, lower paying job so unemployment benefits should be extended.
    The government and businesses get their money from us so they should help now that its needed, if not, it will affect all of us negatively when people can't pay their mortgages and cut expenses even more.

    January 14, 2014 05:45 pm at 5:45 pm |
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