Senate Delays Vote on Jobless Bill

U.S. Senate delays vote on jobless bill until Tuesday
Ty Wright/Bloomberg via Getty ImagesJob seekers at a career fair in Columbus, Ohio, last month.
By Thomas Ferraro

WASHINGTON -- With many lawmakers unable to get to Washington because of record freezing temperatures, the U.S. Senate abruptly postponed until Tuesday a vote on a White House-backed bill to extend jobless benefits for 1.3 million Americans.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid obtained the surprise delay Monday just as the chamber was expected to begin a roll-call vote on whether to start consideration of the measure.

With Congress returning for the new year, it had been unclear if the bill would muster the needed 60 votes in the 100-member Senate to end a Republican procedural roadblock.

But with much of the nation in the grips of a deep freeze, more than a dozen lawmakers were prevented from even getting to the Senate, making it certain that backers would fall short.

Democrats hold the Senate, 55-45.

Assistant Senate Republican Leader John Cornyn of Texas accused Reid of pushing ahead with a vote because he was more interested in the politics of the issue than helping the jobless.

"This ought to be postponed to a later time when we could have a real debate" about how to "pay for an extension of jobless benefits and how to get the economy growing," Cornyn said.

Reid then rose and,
without objection, got the vote reset for 10 a.m. Tuesday. A Senate aide said Democrats believe they are within one or two votes of getting 60.

If Democrats fall short, they may agree to Republicans demands for some sort of spending cuts to cover the cost of extending the program without increasing the record federal debt, aides said.

At an estimated cost of $6 billion, the bill offered by Democratic Sen. Jack Reed of Rhode Island and Republican Sen. Dean Heller of Nevada would immediately extend for three months the Emergency Unemployment Compensation program.

During those three months, backers say, Democrats and Republicans could consider possible ways to offset the cost and create new jobs.

Signed into law in 2008 by Republican President George W. Bush, the program last year provided the jobless an average of $300 per week for an additional 28 weeks once state benefits ended.

About 1.3 million Americans lost their benefits on Dec. 28. Unless the program is renewed, another 2 million are expected to lose their benefits in the first six months of this year.

"Don't leave these people without anything," Reed pleaded on the Senate floor.

Supporters argue that besides helping the unemployed, the program boosts the economy as recipients quickly spend their benefit checks on essential goods, helping local retailers.

Reed said if backers of his bill fail to muster the 60 votes needed to advance the measure, they would keep pushing to bolster support in coming days.

"Public pressure will build," Reed said. "People need help."

Obama intends to help whip up such public support with an event at the White House on Tuesday with long-term unemployed.

Republicans contend that the U.S. economy, with the jobless rate now at a five-year low of 7 percent, is on the mend and that such emergency federal assistance is no longer necessary.

The best way to spread the wealth, Republicans argue, is to create more of it by creating jobs via less regulation and taxes.

While Heller urged lawmakers to support the bill, he also echoed a position of fellow Republicans, saying, "Growing our economy should be the primary focus and concern of this body."


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12 Comments

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commtranz

When we ask GOP and tea partiers for a solution they say Cut taxes on the rich and get rid of regulations... Well we tried all of that over and over again with Bush-Cheney and it got us into this mess the rich are not super wealthy and the rest of the nation is getting by on min. wage or close to it.... are we going to fall for that crap again ??

January 07 2014 at 10:45 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to commtranz's comment
majorsujet

Would that be Glass/Steagall that was repealed under Clintoon or would that be the GSE's that Bush warned about but Franks and company said there is nothing to worry about, they are stable? Is that what you are talking about?

January 07 2014 at 1:59 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
commtranz

No one ever mentions on tv or in these articles and comments that you cannot get a check for the week of you cannot prove you made efforts to get a job that week ! These are not hand outs to couch potatoes there are many ages 40 to 60 who are unemployed and want to work but cannot find a job. GOP says 'let them eat cake' aka make these folks take a low paying job BUT there are no low paying jobs to take... how many counter helpers can starbucks and McD's hire ???

January 07 2014 at 10:43 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
canoeal

Creating jobs for these people is the real issue. You can't continue unemployment benifit forever.... and this administration has been the worst in terms of small business growth, the economy and jobs.

January 07 2014 at 10:16 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
kcanpa2_kenneth

The Senators all have jobs, so everyone has jobs. Why should they worry?

January 07 2014 at 10:12 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Carol

So the vote was postponed because the members of the Senate couldn't get to Washington to vote? That's the lamest thing I've read in weeks. You mean to tell me those old fogies don't have computers at home, or phones so they can email or call in their votes? Surely a system must be in place to allow their "voice" to be heard even when they're not present.

January 07 2014 at 9:53 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Carol's comment
canoeal

No it is postpone because the Dems know it won't pass.

January 07 2014 at 10:17 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
jimmy_branch

Boehner Bonehead and the Republicans want the 99%'ers to starve and go away - Reid is trying - the scam here is that every day of delay causes thousands who otherwise qualified for a tier of federal unemployment to become disqualified.

The 1%'ers Dummycrats and Retardicans are in an all out attck on the middle class and the poor which quickly becoming one class-poor.

Why doesn't somebody punch that drunk hungover Bonehead right in the face.

Message to Obama: getting the country high on marijuana may help the losers who use it forget what your doing to our country but those of us who don't use that garbage are fed up.......................

January 07 2014 at 9:41 AM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to jimmy_branch's comment
canoeal

No we just want it paid for and not add to the debt. Remember there is another ceiling issue coming The Dems have already spent the last raise...

January 07 2014 at 10:19 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Emma

Harry Reid is an iidiot, who has no understanding what it is like to go without money or food.
He needs to go.

January 07 2014 at 9:24 AM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply
bmagee5087

Harry reid is a dementia overloaded jerk who should be retired and hopefully he will be come fall elections and he once again gets a seat in the back of the room

January 07 2014 at 9:05 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to bmagee5087's comment
canoeal

Harrl's constituents include Las Vegas...They are alway betting on losers.

January 07 2014 at 10:21 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply