CHN: Nation’s Unemployed Still Waiting For Vote To Extend Federal Benefits
With Congress Planning on Adjourning Before Thanksgiving, Time is Running Out
After another week of inaction on the extension of unemployment benefits, Congress is coming dangerously close to adjournment and once again leaving Washington for the holidays without helping the nation’s unemployed workers who have exhausted their benefits. Neither the Senate nor the House of Representatives has scheduled a vote on any proposal for extension of the federal benefits program. Unless the program is reauthorized, it will expire on December 31 and thousands of workers will lose unemployment benefits at a crucial time.
Last week, during an all-night debate about federal judicial nominations, Senate Democrats submitted motions on ten separate occasions for a “unanimous consent” vote on the latest bill (S 1853) to reauthorize and expand the federal Temporary Emergency Unemployment Compensation program. On each occasion, the motion was objected to by Republican colleagues and defeated.
Senator Gordon Smith (R-OR) introduced a bill (S 1839) to reauthorize the program for six months, without addressing any of the serious limitations of the extension program, such as the number of workers running out of federal extended benefits and the multiple high unemployment states that now only qualify for the 13 weeks of extended benefits. Some Republican leaders may not even support any extension, even a proposal from a fellow Republican. A spokeswoman for Senator Don Nickles (R-OK), said “[the Senator] is cautious about an additional extension.” She continued, “There comes a time to turn off the faucet before you drain the well dry.” In this case, the well is not dry – expanded emergency benefits would be funded out of surplus in the federal unemployment insurance trust fund.
In the House, a spokesman for Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL) commented on extending benefits by saying, “We’re still examining the issue and haven’t made a decision yet.” Representative Jennifer Dunn (R-WA) has repeatedly said Republican leadership has promised that her legislation will be considered before the end of the session.
Advocates are continuing the push for a vote on an actual fix to federal extended benefits (in the form of S 1853 and HR 3244) in the next few days before Congress adjourns instead of merely extending a flawed program.