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. Really

    Stop messing with the people who are unemployed to no fault of their own! Unemployment benefits need to be extended! People who have lost their jobs mainly because Corporations on only worried about their bottom line and not their workers! If they cared about their workers more then we wouldn't have so many people who are in need of Unemployment benefits!!

    January 14, 2014 06:30 pm at 6:30 pm |
  2. Amy

    I really wish people knew how hard it's been to get even meager low-paying jobs. I've been out of work for 5 months, apply for jobs on a regular basis, and get nothing in return. To say we're lazy is ignorant. We didn't choose to be laid off and wonder where our next meal is coming from. I can't afford to insure my car, for Christ's sake. I have a man, but I can't just depend on him for cash. I'm not a gold digger, and prefer to earn my own way. I'm sure a lot of these people don't even have a spouse to help out and/or have kids to feed. Put these lazy congressional apes in OUR shoes and see how fast they come up with a better solution. Until then, it's ramen noodles and unanswered employment applications for me.

    January 14, 2014 06:32 pm at 6:32 pm |
  3. JB

    I hope the voters remember this and blame the republicans who caused and do not care about the problems for the real Americans who do the work. Give congress minimum wage instead of their present benefits and see how they like it. I am helping support 4 educated adults in my family and can only do so because I am able to live on my social security and savings. If I die, they are in real trouble since I will have little left to help them further.

    January 14, 2014 06:33 pm at 6:33 pm |
  4. Bob_Lawbla

    Leave it to our government to extend unemployment benefits (or at least try) while simultaneously trying to pass an immigration reform bill granting a path to citizenship (amnesty) to millions of illegal immigrants.

    Was this is the change you were looking?

    January 14, 2014 06:33 pm at 6:33 pm |
  5. plusonegolfer

    I'm all for finding ways to extend benefits to those who direly need them but what's so wrong with trying to find a way to pay for what you spend? Did these knuckleheads from both parties think that fixing the long term debt problem was going to be easy ... this is a speck compared to the bigger issues to be tackled.

    January 14, 2014 06:34 pm at 6:34 pm |
  6. Dominic

    Republicans have NO Patriotism. They would rather the country drown and millions of American families struggle and starve, because Republicans are insanely focused on doing NOTHING but stabbing our President in the back. With Republicans in Congress, who needs enemies?

    January 14, 2014 06:34 pm at 6:34 pm |
  7. Teresa F

    I have read some additional comments saying to move if you can't find a job. Well, if I can't afford to spend $1 at the grocery store then how am I supposed to uproot and move? Do you not understand the expense that comes with moving? That is an idiots way of thinking. If only it was as easy as that. I have been unemployed for 7 months. I have not been "milking" the system as some of you keep throwing out about those of us who were on unemployment. I did not get fired from a job. My company decided to shut it's doors. I am a single lady,who does not have anyone to fall back on. If you want to give me a job and pay for my moving expenses and rent til I actually collect a check then by all means get ahold of me. This isn't a political party issue. It is an issue of humanity.

    January 14, 2014 06:34 pm at 6:34 pm |
  8. mkat2

    Lpage.....! READ the article again & the breakdown on the votes before you blame it ALL on the Republicans! Then,
    ask your Messiah where all those 'shovel ready' jobs are....?!

    January 14, 2014 06:34 pm at 6:34 pm |
  9. nc_mike

    A vote for the GOP is a vote against your own economic best interests.

    January 14, 2014 06:35 pm at 6:35 pm |
  10. tre

    Nicole, get two part time jobs

    January 14, 2014 06:36 pm at 6:36 pm |
  11. Terry

    Nicole, the world does not revolve around your schedule, how self centered and there is your problem.

    January 14, 2014 06:36 pm at 6:36 pm |
  12. Average Joe

    Why is it this great country of ours has enough money to spread to other countries yet turns its head from Americans in desperate need? Im with Lpage all the way on this one . Its disgusting. Shame on the senate.

    January 14, 2014 06:37 pm at 6:37 pm |
  13. shon williams

    Quit voting for rich men to go to congress unless your rich. They dont like you.

    January 14, 2014 06:38 pm at 6:38 pm |
  14. GOB OBSTRUCTIONISTS

    GOB OBSTRUCTIONISTS
    >

    In the last 4.5 years, the GOP has introduced:
    >

    76 bills on abortion
    163 bills on religion
    103 bills on family relationships
    76 bills on marriage
    122 bills on firearms
    904 bills on taxation
    52 bills on repealing a passed Law (ACA)
    >

    NOT 1 BILL ON JOBS!!!...and... they blocked the American Jobs Act...and now they refuse to give incentives for Companies to HIRE AMERICAN, and now they FAIL the American people AGAIN....

    Mitch McConnell. (2010 As leader of the Republicans in the Senate)
    "OUR TOP POLITICAL priority over the next **TWO YEARS** SHOULD BE; To deny Obama a 2nd Term."
    >
    GOP: Putting MILLIONS out of work... To make 1 Man lose his Job!</b

    January 14, 2014 06:38 pm at 6:38 pm |
  15. Coping with the Extremes

    I am a snapshot of the former upper middle class experience. A graduate degree, 25 years of solid work experience, a kid in College. Laid-off due to budget cuts, and often competing against 400 others for each job opportunity. Almost every application is on-line so you rarely get to see the hiring authority, they won't give you feedback when you get passed over for fear of lawsuits. This is the new freaking frustrating normal. The gap is widening. There are ways for Congress, Corporations, and Companies to solve the problem, but not enough people will care until it happens to them. Everyone should try this sometime to really understand what it is like – hey, perhaps there should be an app for that! LOL

    January 14, 2014 06:38 pm at 6:38 pm |
  16. Linda M

    Was just reading some of the posts from people, I hope and pray that some day you all are not in our shoes right now, being unemployed sometimes is not by our choice when companies up and move and you live somewhere that the jobs are few and far in between... So with that said to so called Americans that can bash us unemployed people that do have college degrees and experience... SO FOR YOU PEOPLE THAT DO THIS TO THE UNEMPLOYED JUST COME WALK A MILE IN OUR SHOES WHEN WE HAVE NOTHING NOW NO MONEY FOR GAS, FOOD, HOMES, INSURANCE AND ETC!!!! I am so glad that you can sleep of a night while the unemployed people worry about how to feed their families there next meal or to take their kids that are sick to the doctor... To the people in our congress that dont want to extend the federal benifits to us, why not cut your sarlary instead of cutting our throats, you take care of other countries before you do the Americans here that need help.

    January 14, 2014 06:39 pm at 6:39 pm |
  17. Lisa P.

    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
    ---------------------------------
    Actually it was the Republicans that blocked the bill, thanks to Senate rules that give the minority party undue influence when it comes to procedural votes. In future rants please at least try to blame the right people for fouling up vitally necessary legislation - the Republicans are still the Party of No.

    January 14, 2014 06:40 pm at 6:40 pm |
  18. Go get a job

    To all you people saying you can't find work after a year and are crying you won't get any more freebies from the govt., I say if you can't find a job, you better make one yourself and start your own business. There is no excuse for not being self employed.

    January 14, 2014 06:40 pm at 6:40 pm |
  19. mary

    When are we going to try the Republican party for treason?

    January 14, 2014 06:40 pm at 6:40 pm |
  20. GIA

    Good point, Bill and Lpage ,, But we let them do it,, Why do we need so many senator any way. we should fire them so we can save money.That would cut spending and save money,, we only need 50

    January 14, 2014 06:41 pm at 6:41 pm |
  21. Putting effort

    Wow... And you sit here and wonder why people are robbing and stealing etc.. I'm not saying it's right but when will they realize that things are GOING TO GET WORSE! And you ppl saying we're lazy put a cork in it some ppl are lazy I on the other hand couldn't find work after being laid off for 8 mos I've applied for hundreds of jobs no luck! I go to school Mon thru Thursday so i can maintain a routine! I think this is wrong and to you idiots shouting we're lazy etc... While you're working your job bringing a check home able to pay bills and don't have to worry about eviction and what nots remember the country is hurting and ppl are bound to go nuts and rob you I'm just being honest have some compassion and thank your lucky stars that you don't end up in some our positions or become victim of robbery! I'm a single mom facing eviction bcuz of this it hurts i don't know where I'm going to get help everyone keeps giving me the run around! I pray for all of us that are being affected by this!

    January 14, 2014 06:41 pm at 6:41 pm |
  22. Mark

    I am 99er from the days of 2008. Finally got a part time job and in 3 and a half years I got 3 raises. Now I make 11hr. If I don't laugh I will shoot myself.

    January 14, 2014 06:43 pm at 6:43 pm |
  23. T Lehigh

    It seem we have some GOP snakes in a pit of lies only to prevent the truth about the Republican, the true GOP whats to disconnect to the needs of the middle class , in order to make they upper 5 percent and corp. welfare flow more freely on the backs of the middle class and blame the poor for every problem, people open your eyes and see that they have enough blind people in the middle class and poor to pull this off, only we can send them packing with your vote. Ending war is thy number one thing that Obama can do end the GOP loud voice with no money invested into there cause for many Corp. that rely on these funds we need to pressure Obama to end thy war by the summer and remember with out the war Republicans are weak and more money can be poured into domestic causes like unemployment insurance and jobs !!

    January 14, 2014 06:43 pm at 6:43 pm |
  24. Larry

    We need to help people but you can't use unemployment insurance since they have already bankrupted it.
    Lets stop giving other countries money and take care of our own people first. Lets send people back to their own countries if they are on temporary work visas and Americans can fill those jobs. It only makes sense.

    January 14, 2014 06:45 pm at 6:45 pm |
  25. gahh

    No money for the unemployed and also Republicans cut welfare by 5 billion dollars, as McCain and Lindsey Graham want weapons and Drones, sent to Iraq. How many billions will that cost? How many billions will Obama send to the Middle East, and how many sacks full of money, will Obama continue giving to Karzai, in Afghanistan?
    This whole thing is sickening!!

    January 14, 2014 06:46 pm at 6:46 pm |
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