Over the past two weeks, Democrats in the House and Senate have begun a major push to force both chambers to vote on the federal extension of unemployment benefits. Thus far, the Republican leaders of the House and the Senate have failed to schedule a vote on any of the bill to reauthorize or expand the program.
In the House of Representatives, a discharge petition sponsored by Representative Darlene Hooley (D-OR) calls on members of the House of Representatives to vote first on the Democrat version of the extension (HR 3244) and if that bill does not pass, then on the extension bill introduced by Representative Jennifer Dunn (R-WA), which has 17 Republican co-sponsors (HR 3270). The Dunn bill would simply continue the current program beyond the December 31 expiration date, while the Democratic bill would also provide several more weeks of assistance to millions of unemployed workers who have exhausted all their benefits. Currently, 125 Representatives have signed the discharge petition. Dunn (R-WA) has said she has received assurances from House Republican Leaders that they will schedule a vote on legislation to extend the unemployment program before Congress recesses for the year, but it is unclear if the vote will be on her bill or a different one.
In the Senate, Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) moved for unanimous consent for the Senate to adopt extension legislation. The motion was to pass a modified version of the Democratic extension bill (S 1708), providing 26 weeks of extended benefits to all workers (up from the current 13 weeks), plus seven more weeks in a number of high unemployment states. Senator Michael Crapo (R-ID) objected to the motion. Until Congress recesses for the Thanksgiving holiday, Democratic Senators are expected to continue calling for unanimous consent on their extension legislation. In addition to the unanimous consent requests, watch for the extension bill to be added as an amendment on the Senate floor, possibly on the internet tax bill currently being debated.
Latest List of Signatories of House Discharge Petition (10/29/03)
National Employment Law Project Unemployed Resources Page