No benefits extension for 1.3 million

Frank Wallace: Unemployed and without benefits (AP)

More than 1.3 million laid-off workers won’t get their unemployment benefits reinstated before Congress goes on a weeklong vacation for Independence Day.

An additional 200,000 people who have been without a job for at least six months stand to lose their benefits each week, unless Congress acts.

For the third time in as many weeks, Republicans in the Senate successfully filibustered a bill Wednesday night to continue providing unemployment checks to people who been laid off for long stretches. The House is slated to vote on a similar measure Thursday, though the Senate’s action renders the vote a futile gesture as Congress prepares to depart Washington for its holiday recess.

A little more than 1.3 million people have already lost benefits since the last extension ran out at the end of May.

“It is beyond disappointing that Republicans continue to stand almost lockstep against assistance for out-of-work Americans,” said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.

The measure, however, stands a better chance of passing after a replacement is seated for Sen. Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va., who died Monday. The measure fell two votes short of the 60 needed to advance Wednesday night, but only because Reid, a supporter of the bill, voted “nay” to take a procedural step that would allow for a revote.

“We will vote on this measure again once there is a replacement named for the late Sen. Byrd,” Reid said.

Byrd’s successor will be named by West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin, a Democrat.

Unable to deliver more stimulus spending for President Barack Obama, Democrats in Congress had hoped to at least restore the jobless benefits. Obama has urged lawmakers to spend about $50 billion to help states pay for Medicaid programs and to avoid teacher layoffs, but Democrats in Congress have been unable to come up with the votes.

Many Democrats see state aid and unemployment benefits as insurance against the economy sliding back into recession. However, many Republicans and some Democrats worry about adding to the growing national debt.

Some Republicans offered to support the unemployment bill if it was paid for with unspent money from last year’s massive economic recovery package. Democrats rejected the offer, saying the money was needed for jobs programs.

“The only reason the unemployment extension hasn’t passed is because Democrats simply refuse to pass a bill that doesn’t add to the debt,” said Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.

Sen. George Voinovich, R-Ohio, said, “My concern is that the Democrats are more interested in having this issue to demagogue for political gamesmanship than they are in simply passing the benefits extension.”

The unemployment bill would have provided up to a total of 99 weekly unemployment checks averaging $335 to people whose 26 weeks of state-paid benefits have run out. The benefits would be available through the end of November, at a cost of $33.9 billion. The money would be borrowed, adding to the budget deficit.

Copyright © 2010 The Associated Press

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3 Responses to "No benefits extension for 1.3 million"

  1. woody188  July 1, 2010 at 1:04 pm

    This could be the tipping point. We’ll have to wait and see what 1.3 million people decide to do when the checks stop coming. They’ll either find work, move in with family, or turn to crime and go homeless. I feel for them, but we can’t just continue to pay people for nothing in return. And yes, I think we could cut other expenditures like overseas military adventures before doing this.

    • Mightymo  July 1, 2010 at 2:42 pm

      For the most part I agree with you, but I believe that their support is so important I think it would make more sense to “rob Peter to pay Paul” by taking the money under emergency order (if that’s possible) from other areas of government funding.
      For instance, I think it would be perfectly plausible to take the money form the military to fund unemployment, while at the same time decreasing payouts to the unemployed.
      I know the military can make cuts in its spending to support this while at the same time the unemployed will just need to suffer the hardship of decreased payments.
      May be hard, but it’s better than no money at all.

      • woody188  July 1, 2010 at 7:08 pm

        A good start would be cutting foreign aid to places like Israel. We could use that $9 billion+ this year just as much as them.

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