Prospects worsen for Senate passage of unemployment benefits
January 8th, 2014
05:11 PM ET
9 years ago

Prospects worsen for Senate passage of unemployment benefits

(CNN) - The prospects for passing an extension of benefits for the long-term unemployed got significantly worse Wednesday after two Republican senators who voted with Democrats earlier this week said they will pull their much-needed support unless Democrats come up with a way to pay for the $6.4 billion bill.

Without the votes of Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio and Sen. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, who voted on Tuesday to begin debate on the bill, Democrats won’t be able to get over a 60 vote threshold needed to break a GOP filibuster and end debate on the measure, which would extend the benefits for the next three months.

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Democrats, meanwhile, appeared to be hardening their position. Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-New York, who had been working with Democrats and Republicans to see if they could find offsets acceptable to both parties, issued a statement saying a deal was unlikely.

“I don’t think there’s much enthusiasm for a three-month offset deal on our side,” Schumer said.

The White House and congressional Democrats said the legislation was a top priority but Republicans accused them of sabotaging their own bill – by refusing to come up with a compromise offset - in order to have a political issue they could use to attack Republicans in the 2014 mid-term elections.

“I will not vote to end debate without offsets,” Ayotte said at a Capitol news conference where she, Portman, and other Republicans, were unveiling a plan to pay for benefit extension by getting rid of a child tax credit improperly claimed by some immigrants who are in the U.S. illegally.

Previously, Ayotte had only said she “likely” would oppose ending debate, leaving her room to still support the bill if offsets weren’t agreed to.

Portman was also firm. He said he was assured by Democrats that amendments related to offsets and reforms to the unemployment programs would be allowed and was concerned Democrats now were balking at proposals Republicans were offering.

“If I know that it’s going to be paid for and we’ll then engage in a process of reform, then I’d be able to support it,” said Portman. “But if not, I won’t be able to.”

For years, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has been luke warm about offsets for long-term unemployment benefits. He’s argued they amount to emergency spending. However, on Tuesday he did open the door to considering them if Republicans had “reasonable” proposals.

Since then senators from both parties say there have been some private discussions about finding a path forward but little progress had been made. President Barack Obama called a handful of Republicans including Sen. Susan Collins of Maine who spoke to him Monday. Collins said the President was more interested in discussing her ideas for reforming unemployment programs than whether or how to pay for them.

“If Republicans are so interested in paying for this measure, they should propose a reasonable way to do so. That doesn’t attack the Affordable Care Act or punish American children, as these two proposals they presented yesterday do,” Reid said on the floor Wednesday. “They should propose an offset that might actually pass. Instead they propose a string of political amendments each more doomed to failure than the last one they offered.”

Asked how serious he thinks Democrats are in finding offsets, Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, the second-ranking Republican leader, said he was “skeptical” and said if Democrats wouldn’t agree to offsets “the outcome looks pretty dismal.”

Most of the other Republicans who voted to take up the bill – including Collins, Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, and Sen. Dan Coats of Indiana – say they want offsets but haven’t demanded them as a pre-condition for moving forward.

“I have not drawn a line in the sand about what I’m ultimately going to do on this this bill because my focus is to get it offset and that’s what I think is entirely reasonable and should happen. The bill will pass overwhelmingly if it is offset,” Collins said.

Portman said he wants to find a way to approve the benefits and has a number of ideas he wants the Senate to debate.

He said Democrats were caught off guard when six Republicans voted with them to take up the bill.

“I think they had hoped, frankly, some of them, from a political point of view, that they could say Republicans were obstructing,” Portman said. “I think we kind of took them by surprise and instead we’re saying we absolutely don’t want to obstruct.”

Filed under: Senate • unemployment
soundoff (57 Responses)
  1. J.V.Hodgson

    I have a question.
    as a working person all my life salary, middle class or so called executive there were 365 days in a year 52*2 were weekends off ( I often had to work them paid or unpaid) the most counrties have 11 or so public holidays like Easter Xmas new year, Labor day thanksgiving etc and 20 days annual Hols at best. The net is 230 days we the people work to earn a fair days pay for a fair days work.
    I propose legislation that says:-
    1) Congress, House and Senate MEMBERS AS IN OFFICE AT THE TIME must be in session for 230 days -21 DAYS FOR THOSE SUBJECT TO RE-ELECTION FOR CAMPAIGN PURPOSES .
    2) Then 1.5 days a month for Home base " political clinics) sounding out voters views =191 working days in the House and Senate which must be the same dates of being in session.
    Its a start at least, and we need to consider automatic reconciliation on anything to determine amendments to bill proposals in house or senate on a date time proposal basis not having debate is gridlock an totally non bipartisan.

    January 9, 2014 01:45 am at 1:45 am |
  2. Sam Stewart

    I will not vote to end debate without offsets,” Ayotte said at a Capitol news conference where she, Portman, and other Republicans, were unveiling a plan to pay for benefit extension by getting rid of a child tax credit improperly claimed by some immigrants who are in the U.S. illegally.

    Go figure . The libturds want to continue to send taxpayer money to their illegal voting group.LOL!!

    January 9, 2014 02:16 am at 2:16 am |
  3. Marie MD

    What should the teaklans care. They have jobs paid for by taxpayers and they have medical insurance and a hefty pension for life after they leave their do nothing job.
    I believe it's the Philippines who are having election problems because so many are not being allowed to vote plus other problems. Sound like anybody we know here in the US?

    January 9, 2014 06:28 am at 6:28 am |
  4. @RI_Roger

    This country operates under a $3 Trillion budget; we can find the necessary funds to offset this expense. Sixty-five to seventy percent of America agrees with paying for this extension. We need to find a way how to make this happen, not reasons why it can't happen.... Democrat Senators not supporting a pay for are being "Obstructionist".

    January 9, 2014 06:49 am at 6:49 am |
  5. Woodturner

    How about the president returning the money he spent on(that we paid for) his Hawaii vacation and the cost of letting his wife stay for 2 or 3 more weeks and then they have to send the empty AF1 jet to pick her up at the cost of $850,000.00. There is the unemployment benefit checks, going to Hawaii!

    January 9, 2014 07:25 am at 7:25 am |
  6. Richard Right

    If you live in Arlington,VA and drive to Home Depot you can still find illegal aliens who wait to be offered jobs doing construction work, those illegals take jobs from U.S. citizens. If you go by convenience stores you will also find illegal works for part time work. Across America employers still employ illegals in manufacturing, forestry, construction, hotel, motel, loading etc. Demand employers of 20 or more make online checks to con firm citizenship. Then punish those who continue to employ illegals with fines of $100,000 or four years in prison. They'll fire illegals, hire Americans and the illegals will return to their home countries or invade other countries. For our citizens who are too lazy to work, let them live off family members, not my taxes

    January 9, 2014 07:43 am at 7:43 am |
  7. Stop wasting time

    It amazes me that this would pass the senate if not for a republican filibuster. I can't believe we need 60 voted to get stuff done now.

    January 9, 2014 08:07 am at 8:07 am |
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