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. Tricia

    I am a hard working person, to which I have worked throughout my life. I am unemployed at present and I apply for at least 3 jobs per week, whether I am qualified or not. I need to work!!! Do not put me in a category of sitting around living off the system. The economy is faltering every day. I am angry that so much money is brutally wasted in this government, yet you think extending unemployment will cause people to stop looking for work. PLEASE- just tell us where these jobs are if things are so great. This is not the world of even 10 years ago. More and more jobs are leaving this country. Even if people were trained for factory work ,where are they???? Raising the minimum wage just increases the domino effect of price increase for everyone-where's the logic. AND-taking away benefits from the military is the most insane crock of --. Tell me those of you who have all the answers and voted against the extension, how do we meet our financial obligations. There are more Americans than jobs. Yet millions are spent for defunct web sites, to countries that would like to see America off the map, Congressional increases ,etc., etc. ,etc. Oh yes- I am a Republican!!!.

    January 14, 2014 06:03 pm at 6:03 pm |
  2. James

    Wow. Half the posts are jobless people talking about how everyone here calls them lazy, yet the only place I am seeing lazy and jobless are their own posts. Talk about a bad strawman. The one that cracked me up the most was the one that said he can't find a job because he keeps refusing jobs that don't work around his school schedule. Sir, you don't have a job because you are dumb. You can't claim that you can't find a job because you have to go to school when the reason you don't have a job is because you are in school.

    January 14, 2014 06:03 pm at 6:03 pm |
  3. Russell

    I am for extending benefits, but after 26 weeks if a person wants an extension, they should earn it by working at least two days a week, for the local, state or federal government. There is a lot of infrastructure that needs repair. And this would give them a means to find a steady job.

    To fund this lets reduce the do nothing congressional pay and not the working men and women defending our country.

    January 14, 2014 06:03 pm at 6:03 pm |
  4. Me


    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.
    READ THE ARTICLE, it was not congress that didn't pass it, it was the liberal SENATE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Again, you can't fix stupid...

    January 14, 2014 06:03 pm at 6:03 pm |
  5. Paul

    I have not seen any mention on any of the News Stories about extending the unemployed benefits about their Health Insurance. All these unemployed people most likely do not have any Health Insurance. So how are they going to get and pay for ObamaCare with no money coming in at all? Congress needs to restore these benefits.

    January 14, 2014 06:04 pm at 6:04 pm |
  6. Rob

    Went almost 2 year unemployed. I know what it's like to feel helpless, daily looking for a job. I am grateful to not be in that mess again. Heart goes out those in that situation.

    January 14, 2014 06:04 pm at 6:04 pm |
  7. billmelater1

    I have a solution. EVERY American that voted YES in the poll to extend benefit have 10% taken out of whatever income they are getting. Hey someone has to pay for it so if you are for it you pay for it..

    January 14, 2014 06:05 pm at 6:05 pm |
  8. Lou from NH

    I have not held a full-time job since May 2008. I have basically survived on what savings I had plus short term (and much less frequent) contract positions. I am still plugging away to try and find a job after close to 6 years. There are many more of us out there – and we are far from lazy!

    January 14, 2014 06:08 pm at 6:08 pm |
  9. James

    What is more hilarious is that this time it was solely the Dems fault the bill didn't pass but because people didn't bother to read, most of the comments are about how the Republicans failed here. Dem were at fault THIS time. Learn to read. It might help your job search.

    January 14, 2014 06:09 pm at 6:09 pm |
  10. hmm

    Question: are the jobs not there, or, are most of the people not qualified (education/experience) to fill the vacant jobs that are out there? I would say 50/50 on that one.

    January 14, 2014 06:09 pm at 6:09 pm |
  11. Jasmine Lindros

    Misleading headline alert! The Senate didn't merely fail to advance benefits, the Senate couldn't come up with six – SIX – Republicans, out of 45, to support continuing debate on the bill. This means Republican in the Senate are more than 85% AGAINST extending benefits, while Americans citizens are 58% FOR extending benefits. Who do these Republicans represent? Because it's obviously not the voting public.

    January 14, 2014 06:09 pm at 6:09 pm |
  12. Ol' Yeller

    Luckily the RNC did an 'autopsy' on the republicant party and discovered the areas they were lagging behind the Dems in... turns out they were minor things like compassion, intelligence, competency, honesty.... just little things. They decided to revamp things to 'fix; these problems and this appears to be the result.
    Same old same old.... I'm sure it is the Dems fault for not 'paying for it'. Funny how the republicants can shut the government down at a cost of 24 billion,but can't find a lesser amount to keep these families off the street and not cause further damage to our economy... blaming Obama will betheir tactic, I'm sure.
    It always is...

    January 14, 2014 06:11 pm at 6:11 pm |
  13. Edwin

    I have to say that this is not a one sided issue. Can't blame only the Republicans. In December this wasn't fought for by dems in the budget for this year as a political tactic to use against the reps because the dems knew reps would ask for amendments and try to filibuster this bill, so they can look good in re-elections. i don't know what the play here is, these are benefits for people who have worked, paid taxes, and done the best to do what is asked "work, and pay taxes", and now throw us to the wolves is very unfair. Someone needs to comprise, we cant take care of the world, and tell our own there left to fend for themselves. Billions get pumped into markets around the world, but when it comes to taking care of our own we fight. Seems to me the war is here, and we shouldn't worry about foreign enemies when we have the worst enemies at our front door.

    January 14, 2014 06:11 pm at 6:11 pm |
  14. KellyJohnson

    Sometimes I don't understand...where in this article did you read that Republican's don't want it extended. All they said was if you are going to extend it find a way to pay for it. That seems completely logical to me!

    January 14, 2014 06:11 pm at 6:11 pm |
  15. Mopery

    Wake up, people, it's time to take down the rich. They are winning a class war they started in the 1980's, and we're running out of time.

    January 14, 2014 06:11 pm at 6:11 pm |
  16. Greenspam

    Just exactly how many months you can stay on unemployment?

    January 14, 2014 06:12 pm at 6:12 pm |
  17. Ron

    As a country we need to do the right thing. This is NOT about supporting people who may take advantage, but supporting the majority of people WHO DO NOT take advantage, the job market is still extremely difficult for many.....

    January 14, 2014 06:12 pm at 6:12 pm |
  18. JC

    Instead of Unemployment benefit, how about giving them a loan so they can repay back in installment when they find a job.

    January 14, 2014 06:13 pm at 6:13 pm |
  19. Me

    Do any of you posting about repubs know how to read??? Seriously, do you????? The Dem controled SENATE failed to pass the bill NOT the repubs!!!!!!!!! Seriously learn how to read!

    January 14, 2014 06:13 pm at 6:13 pm |
  20. Tee Tee

    The bible tell us if I was hungry I will feed you. It is not right for y'all not to extended the benefits to over a million people who voted you in but I pray that non of y'all sleep good at night knowing that you have people out there with no income have work hard through out there life. Remember what goes around comes around. We need to look to God. We need help President Barack Obama we need your help you hold the pen.

    January 14, 2014 06:13 pm at 6:13 pm |
  21. Name

    If they dont extend benefits..ill go from working fir tge past15yrs,to being on the street.and im only34..im in great shape.and have a.great personality..u think id rather collect $300s wk rather than $1000???they never planned on passing it..just political games for.votes and now im screwed..we vote ya ll for OUR benefit,not your own.How about we fire you from your job and see how you like looking under the couch for gas money!!!

    January 14, 2014 06:14 pm at 6:14 pm |
  22. Ol' Yeller

    Hey no mas... read the article. The bill didn't pass because of the republicants (that can happen in a Democracy, the minority party can block stuff... case you haven't been paying attention for 250 years).
    So... who the "HYPOCRITES" now?

    January 14, 2014 06:14 pm at 6:14 pm |
  23. sammy750

    Harry Reid needs to start voting and passing on the many nominations for Obama. At least the senate can accomplish that without the Republicans. Republicans just obstruct. They are not in DC to help the nation or the people. Defeat Republicans,

    January 14, 2014 06:15 pm at 6:15 pm |
  24. PoBoy

    They can pay for it by simply cutting, not even eliminating the combined foreign aid to Israel, Egypt and Pakistan. If you want another source of funding, cut the subsidies to millionaire ethanol producers (the scam of the century) and sugar cane growers.

    January 14, 2014 06:15 pm at 6:15 pm |
  25. Name

    Please help us..atleast for the 3months...pleeeeeeeeeze

    January 14, 2014 06:15 pm at 6:15 pm |
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