Extending unemployment benefits stumbles in Senate
January 14th, 2014
04:32 PM ET
10 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. Smitty

    Wheres the job pivot Bamman ?????

    January 14, 2014 06:16 pm at 6:16 pm |
  2. SO

    No mas you are so wrong it was the republicans that said no. But that's neither here nor there the fact if the matter is everyone is judging without knowing every individual situation I am a Nurse that was receiving partial UE benefits due to lack of work I need money I'm far from lazy

    January 14, 2014 06:17 pm at 6:17 pm |
  3. Ry

    There are plenty of jobs hiring in the mall I work at. GET ONE!!!

    January 14, 2014 06:18 pm at 6:18 pm |
  4. wow

    this country is truly messed up.. we can send billions to other countries yet we cant take care of our own. I been unemployed before it took me a year to find a job. so, I can understand how it is to be without a job. flipping burgers doesn't pay a mortage u idiots.

    January 14, 2014 06:18 pm at 6:18 pm |
  5. G

    This is all so bogus...since biz has to budget for UC we should have a standard that is permanent and does not allow the Ds or Rs to grandstand...6 months UC for workers that have worked less than 5 years contribution, 1 year for the over 5 year workers...this extension nonsense is a budget buster. UC to seasonal workers is a total joke. You want to earn your benefits? Put hours in the system. 52 weeks for UC will go by very fast but all the unemployed (through no fault of their own) must know there are limits to trying to secure the job they want versus the job they need.

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

    Message to Nicole – I got an MBA giving up my weekend for 3 years – the company did not work around my schedule I worked around their schedule. Maybe you should reconsider your priorites?

    January 14, 2014 06:19 pm at 6:19 pm |
  7. Chris

    Good, if you can't get a job (doing something)... then you're doing something wrong. There are plenty of jobs out there for everyone. In some industries they can't find enough people to fill the spots. If there are no jobs where you live, move. If you get beat out by someone for a position you wanted, then find out why and work on your weaknesses. Above all, do something besides apply for 100 jobs and go to 3 interviews. If all else fails start a company doing anything... rake leaves... babysit... sell hot dogs... whatever it takes, make something of it. More unemployment benefits aren't going to help you do that. It takes drive and determination. Most of all it takes you just doing it.

    January 14, 2014 06:19 pm at 6:19 pm |
  8. B A

    Downsizing ,fulltime positions become part-time,union busting jobs ,first hired first fired, redefining positions and changing pay grades and taking benefits from hard working voters. NO ONE IS ASKING FOR A HAND OUT WE JUST WANT TO LIVE THE WAY WE HAVE ALL OUR WORKING LIVES.

    January 14, 2014 06:21 pm at 6:21 pm |
  9. Johhny Bank

    If you raise the minimum wage, so working will pay more than unemployment benefits – people will go back to work.
    If you stop pandering to the rich business owner, who saves all his money while the rest of us pay for their unemployment and food stamps you may actually have a fix. Thank you WalMart

    January 14, 2014 06:22 pm at 6:22 pm |
  10. Mr.HowdyDoody

    Homeless – So you've been unemployed for a year, and are worried about making ends meet, yet apparently you can afford internet service or have the time to go somewhere and screw off on CNN message boards.
    I went a year without work. Used up 3 months of unemployment, but since I actually saved money, I lasted the other 9 months fine. I even managed to keep a roof over my head, keep my car payments current, and raise a 2 year old and an infant that was born a week before I was laid off. It sucks, but you have to cut back, sell stuff and live frugally. Take any job that you can.
    To all those complaining about Republicans, the Dems have the majority and can't pass this. Everyone has this feeling of Oh, we have to do something, but the facts are facts. The money isn't there to do it. The Republicans said they would pass it if the money came from somewhere else. IE One of thousands of wasteful programs on the books. With the amount of money spent on flying the Obama's separately around the world for their many vacations, 10's of thousands of people could have kept their unemployment coming in. Our government is wasteful. In an era of global communications, why are we still flying all over the world to conduct 5 minute meetings? Teleconference and save a ton of money on travel expenses. It's also great for the environmentalists as it cuts down on pollution.

    January 14, 2014 06:22 pm at 6:22 pm |
  11. DAVID

    the GOP people in congress never took any classes in their life that needed logic. american workers right now with 92% plus are producing all the goods and services that the american people need from US workers. a little over 7% of our work force is not needed in the work place to meet demand! the GOP has no jobs programs to help , they are cutting research to the bone which in the past produced new services and products to sell in the world markets. they do not want it would seem to put over 11 million undocumented workers on the paying taxes payroll. just what part of the taxes that we collect is the money of the american people not the money of the GOP personal accounts. it should always be spent on the american people first. not on more weapons we have enough of them, not on handouts to businesses like oil companies. the GOP has very little logic or brains to run this country. the 2014 election is coming and the GOP will get their report card handed to the by american voters no matter how they try to rig the voting process. can't wait!

    January 14, 2014 06:24 pm at 6:24 pm |
  12. BostonVeteran

    It's absolutely hilarious that some of the states and districts that are most affected by not extending unemployment benefits are represented by Republicans...

    On a side not, I've been unemployed for just over six months. I'm going to school full time, and still looking for a job. Hundreds of applications, dozens of returned phone calls, two interviews and no job offers in that time span. I've even gone so far as to apply for minimum wage jobs... and been turned down as being 'overqualified'. Other jobs are temp jobs (the only kind I've been able to find since the economy tanked) that are very, very unlikely to turn into actual steady jobs... Everyone I've spoken to in my field in the area averages being unemployed for eight to twelve months between jobs... My wife and I have been scratching and cutting costs, trying to make it through until I can find a job.... and now we don't even have the meager safety net of unemployment benefits.

    January 14, 2014 06:24 pm at 6:24 pm |
  13. Walter

    I love hearing all this screaming and squawking about those impacted by the lose of extended benefits. Where is the screaming and squawking about helping those who have long since used up all their extensions?

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

    Lower your standards. If you've been unemployed that long, it's time to lower your standards. Perhaps you were already living over your head.

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

    Something needs to be done that is for sure and it needs to be balanced by some way to pay for it- how about the memebers of congress and fed employees (especially the non-essential ) take a cut so that money can help pay – and for those harping about the lazy folks on un-employment it is another case as in all things of the few that are lazy being used to tar all of those on it no matter how hard they are trying to find work

    January 14, 2014 06:26 pm at 6:26 pm |
  16. john

    please everyone voice your opinions to the racist, careless, GOP that is using the unemployed as pawns to advance their agenda. i believe that the GOP will see the effect of this foolish methodology come election time.

    January 14, 2014 06:26 pm at 6:26 pm |
  17. Romney is STILL NOT My Hero

    @Hurting – I thought the Government was for the people not their own personal agendas and egos ....
    -----
    I hate to say it, but I already saw the handwriting on the wall for this whole scenario. Practically NO ONE in Washington DC cares about you, me or anyone else (maybe a total of 5-10 actually do). End of discussion. The few who really care are not enough to pass the kind of laws needed to turn this country around.

    January 14, 2014 06:27 pm at 6:27 pm |
  18. Just Retired

    I wish our Senators and Congressmen would realize that the people who just had their extended benefit cut off are not just all going to start living under bridges and eating at soup kitchens. They will be be getting wahatever help the can from family and friends. This of course will cause a financial hardship for those helping out. In my case, I just retired and my income is 50% of what it while I was working. Now I have to support my daughter whose extended unemployment ended as best as I can which will indeed will be a hardship for me.

    It goes without saying that this inaction will definitely result in reduced spending in the economy by not only those without extended unemployment but those that are helping them financially. I guess when you have a Congress and Senate where most on the members are millionaires, their ability to grasp the financial hardship their lack of action on this subject is a given. To say these individuals are elected "representives" of the citizens of this country is a joke.

    January 14, 2014 06:27 pm at 6:27 pm |
  19. jimv

    Its about votes now people. If only the millions that wind up hurt by this votes against anything Republican in any future election, that is your only voice.
    The Republican Millionaires did this to you. remember that

    January 14, 2014 06:27 pm at 6:27 pm |
  20. wigal

    According to the news, there will be a recess next week for same said Senators who are 'working' to resolve this concern. So if the unemployment concern is not resolved, the same people we elected to office will go out, on recess. Continue to be paid. Collect benefits. Contribute to their 401K. Deposit money in savings. Plan future vacations, etc., etc. Next time it's time to vote, I'll go out on recess, holding a sign by my voting station acknowledging such. Granted it will most likely go unnoticed yet if nothing can be done for the people, why should I bother to vote?

    January 14, 2014 06:28 pm at 6:28 pm |
  21. Rodney Ogden

    America is going down a slippery slope. We are just like the Roman Empire. Political chaos, heavy tax burden, and waning influence. I am not a hater by nature, however, the Koch Brothers and Rex Sundquist and all of these conservative right wingers who are financing the hate towards and middle class and the poor will eventually help put the country into the perpetual downward spiral. GOD BLESS AMERICA!

    January 14, 2014 06:28 pm at 6:28 pm |
  22. Richard Long

    Why should they have to extend unemployment benefits when the economy is ripping and roaring! We have the LOWEST unemployment rate in 5 years! It is finally under 7%

    Of course we have a record number of people no longer seeking employment... It is a HUGE VICTORY for the Obama Administration. Obama needs to continue eliminating people from seeking employment and we may have a record low unemployment rate!

    January 14, 2014 06:29 pm at 6:29 pm |
  23. bcinwi

    you cant tell me you cant get a job when there are lots of places always hiring.....mc donalds is hiring always....stop taking advantage of hard workers tax dollars

    January 14, 2014 06:29 pm at 6:29 pm |
  24. davecu

    "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...."

    Did you even read the article?
    "A Senate bid to extend long-term unemployment benefits failed to clear a pair of procedural votes on Tuesday, leaving the fate of emergency government assistance to more than 1 million people in limbo."

    Who controls the senate?
    That's right.

    BTW, it's America, not Amerca.

    January 14, 2014 06:29 pm at 6:29 pm |
  25. Bunch

    Make sure you get out and vote mid term elections...less Republicans more progress.

    January 14, 2014 06:30 pm at 6:30 pm |
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