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. Homeless

    I've been job searching for almost a year after being laid off. Today makes it official I will most likely be homeless in a year. All the people saying everyone is lazy on unemployment are simply ignorant. I pray you're never in one of our situations.

    January 14, 2014 05:45 pm at 5:45 pm |
  2. Hurting

    WOW.... For all the people who have never been unemployed I can't wait till it happens to you . Only then will you understand how difficult it is to just get an interview never mind the job itself . After applying to more then 200 positions in the past 6 months . Always easier when the shoe is on the other foot .... I thought the Government was for the people not their own personal agendas and egos ....

    January 14, 2014 05:46 pm at 5:46 pm |
  3. Bill

    Here is idea for funding extensions of long-term unemployment benefits. Let cut the salaries of every senator since they don’t do their job anyways

    January 14, 2014 05:46 pm at 5:46 pm |
  4. no mas

    And they say Republicans are the party of NO??? Yet the DEMOCRAT senate failed to pass a bill to help those they cater to??? HYPOCRITES!!!

    January 14, 2014 05:47 pm at 5:47 pm |
  5. Lpage

    Stupid Stupid Stupid! Thank you Republicans for another screw up! All you want to do is give billions to other countries & can't even help our OWN Country. Gee wonder if crime will go up, people will even be more desperate! GOD SAVE AMRICA....

    January 14, 2014 05:47 pm at 5:47 pm |
  6. STJ

    REPUBLICANS DO NOT HAVE A PRAYER IN THE NEXT ELECTIONS. THIS IS WHAT THEY HAVE BEEN ASKING FOR. A new independent party will rise... don't know who, or where, but lots of republicans are going to hide behind it.

    Good Luck with trying to HIDE !

    January 14, 2014 05:47 pm at 5:47 pm |
  7. JC

    How dare the GOP ask that the extension actually be paid for. That's insanity. Just add it to our tab. It's only $25 billion.

    January 14, 2014 05:48 pm at 5:48 pm |
  8. Natty

    Many are stating here that it's just that people are lazy and don't want to work. WRONG I am educated, have a BA and over 15 years of experience. Everyday I apply to over 5 jobs and still am not employed. I am in the Hospitality business and unfortunately hotels are being bought by these foreign people who refuse to employ anyone that is not their relative or of their race. Other jobs I am being told I am over qualified for so what is one to do? If the government stopped giving American $ away we might have funds to help Americans. I have worked for 29 years and my parents worked for 40 plus. Why should I be made to feel as if I am begging my government for help. Where are all the taxes I have paid over the years? Oh yeah in other countries and making our politicians richer and they could care less about us. This is why a lot of Americans are opting to go live outside of the US, because American is no longer for Americans.

    January 14, 2014 05:48 pm at 5:48 pm |
  9. Ronald

    Accusations of heartlessness just seems harsh. The money is an emergency aid, not a permanent solution. If one cannot find a job after 65 weeks, what makes you think they can find one in another 3 or 11 months? I have met and spoke with dozens of individuals who are currently receiving unemployement benefits. Not one has made any proactive attempts to find a job, besides submitting online applications to jobs they are not qualified for. The reality is many of these people receiving benefits and complaining that Congress is cruel and unreasonable is that they are committing fraud by not taking jobs that are available. I like the idea of having them work for their benefits. Even if it means cleaning the roads/freeways, menial office tasks, etc. The fraud has been going on for far too long. I live in California and this is what I see.

    January 14, 2014 05:50 pm at 5:50 pm |
  10. Mark

    Until people vote and act like they care about the society DC and Wall Street will continue to take as much as they can and return as little as possible. The long term unemployed can and should be productively employed, and the whole 'handout' issue be irrelevant. Until everyone who wants work can earn a living wage things will just get worse. At least we have to say it's happening before our very eyes –

    January 14, 2014 05:50 pm at 5:50 pm |
  11. Donna M. Wright

    Republicans have a history of not supporting people in need. The have always taken money out of education, social service, health care and now jobless benefits because this does not affect them personally. Start a war and you will have their full cooperation because this will line their pockets.

    January 14, 2014 05:51 pm at 5:51 pm |
  12. viranka

    since the gop want buget cuts from elsewhere,they can start with THEIR PAYCHECKS! since they are paid out of the gov. coffers to begin with....

    January 14, 2014 05:51 pm at 5:51 pm |
  13. Joe Seattle

    News Flash! Paying people not to work will not get them back working.

    January 14, 2014 05:52 pm at 5:52 pm |
  14. GET A JOB

    No more hand outs. Hand ups, sure...but enough is enough.

    January 14, 2014 05:52 pm at 5:52 pm |
  15. Tom

    There are more millionaires in wash. now than ever. Do you really think they care about the rest of us. We pay for their lifetime health Ins. and lifetime wages. The Republicans will not fair well for this. Our reps in Wash. are a joke.

    January 14, 2014 05:53 pm at 5:53 pm |
  16. Bob

    I know where they could get the funding, but they'll never vote for a pay cut.

    January 14, 2014 05:54 pm at 5:54 pm |
  17. @Nicole

    What another self entitled brat! The thought that you actually believe that a business is supose to change their whole schedule just so you can keep yours. No wonder no one wants you with an attitude like that.

    January 14, 2014 05:56 pm at 5:56 pm |
  18. T Lehigh

    This will greatly effect the vote for the GOP come mid-term election do not worry unemployed its hard now for you but come November the GOP will wish they did not use the low income hard working people for there excuse for the 24 billion dollar shut down. Vote no vote for GOP come November lets remove these do nothing Congress and Senate and but them on the unemployment lines

    January 14, 2014 05:57 pm at 5:57 pm |
  19. IA

    @ BO .....Thats what my grandparents instilled in their kids and they (our parents) instilled in us, their kids. It worked well for all of us.

    January 14, 2014 05:57 pm at 5:57 pm |
  20. John

    we have those here who says they can't find a job but they can find the internet. Here is clue use the money for something other than the internet.

    January 14, 2014 05:57 pm at 5:57 pm |
  21. pmiller1129

    I took a low paying job after being laid off a couple years ago. It sucks, it really does. How about trying to take a lower paying job? I was making $20/hour then went down to $13.50 after 2 months of looking around. But at least I didnt' have to stay on unemployment. I added roommates to my living situation and went to school. After 2 years I'm over $20/hour. Its called sacrifices. Sorry if your gonna lose your home but maybe you should look into roommates, family or something else besides trying to keep up your previous lifestyle. The countries that own our debt say that this system along with our other massive social services will ruin us. Take it upon yourself to be better, start low and work back up. Nothing in this life is given to you, you must earn every step.

    January 14, 2014 05:58 pm at 5:58 pm |
  22. The Crux of the Buscuit

    Remember this when voting.

    January 14, 2014 05:58 pm at 5:58 pm |
  23. Ron

    To "no mas": it was the Senate Republicans who blocked it. They filibustered and it takes 60 votes to break the filibuster. Which requires just a few Republicans. Yes, the Republicans have, once again, voted against people struggling, and for the powerful.

    January 14, 2014 05:59 pm at 5:59 pm |
  24. Gary D.

    2 weeks no money to repair my vehicle with so now the job i was suppose to start this coming monday right out the window. $100 left in the bank and gotta buy diapers...with over half of congress being million airs i guess i could see why they don't care about people like me. When big corprations lay people off to get a rise in their stocks for share holders...thats fair to i can understand why those people need more money and i need less...I can understand why that their tax rate is lower than ours even tho i made less in a 50 hour week that I crawled though holes and breathed in harmful fumes, Work in dangerous conditions Freezing winds just to keep ships moving. I can understand how they work harder than me. I can also understand thats this country is about spending the money i pay in on building new companies and selling the companies it was use to build to china. I understand your vaction was more important than 1.3 million people and petty arguments matter more. I understand as a ship builder Temp jobs are all there are even though i have a so called "Trade"- My question is this...Will you people representing the american public understand if this happens to you.

    January 14, 2014 06:00 pm at 6:00 pm |
  25. Me


    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.
    So in other words you could care less how the economy is doing only that Repubs are out of congress, PARTISAN HACK!!! Congress did not fail to pass the bill it was the SENATE, try actually reading the article next time!! FAIL!!!

    January 14, 2014 06:01 pm at 6:01 pm |
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