Republican Filibuster Blocks Renewal of Unemployment Insurance in the Senate

Renew Federal Unemployment InsuranceOn two successive procedural votes late today Republicans in the U.S. Senate voted to continue to filibuster legislation to renew federal unemployment insurance, effectively blocking a straight up-or-down vote on any current extension proposal. Minutes earlier, the Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky told reporters that renewing the federal benefits program was "extremely important to the American people" -- but then led his minority 45-member caucus in blocking further action to restore the Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC) program.  Democrats vowed to continue to press for an EUC renewal.  The program lapsed on December 28 due to Congressional failure to renew it before the end of last year.  More than 1.3 million long-term unemployed workers immediately lost the federal benefits.  With about 72,000 people coming to the end of their regular state jobless aid each week since, the toll of those losing benefits is now nearly 1.5 million Americans and their families.

Immediately following the Senate's failure to allow a simple majority vote on renewing the federal benefits, Christine Owens, executive director of the National Employment Law Project (which sponsors this Web site) issued this statement, urging Congress not recess for another break until it renews federal unemployment insurance:

“Here we go again.  Senate Republicans got everything they were asking for on the latest proposals to renew the federal jobless benefits program for long-term unemployed workers and their families, and yet, they continue to block a vote.  Shame on them.  Long-term unemployed workers and their families are suffering badly and are terrified about what the future holds.  It’s time for Senate Republicans to end the pretense and cut to the chase, allowing a vote on the federal jobless aid programs.    

“Millions of Americans rely on this vital program for basic necessities—shelter, heat and food—and to continue looking for work.  Congress already turned its back on these families once, when it left town before the holidays without renewing the program—it must not do so again.  Another congressional break is looming, but neither the Senate nor the House should recess until they both pass a bill to reauthorize Emergency Unemployment Compensation.  Acting on issues that matter to America’s families is Congress’s first and foremost responsibility, and there is no excuse for leaving town again without getting that job done.

“Unemployed workers and their families face deepening crisis every day that Republicans block attempts to renew jobless aid.  Whether they support renewal of the program or not, the least lawmakers could do is allow a vote, especially when they’ve been offered offsets, as demanded, reforms to the program, as demanded, and an opportunity to offer amendments, as demanded.  Refusing to do so reflects callous indifference to the suffering of millions and indifference to the consequences for the economy overall.

“Nearly 1.5 million Americans have already been cut off from federal jobless aid, and an additional 72,000 people are joining their ranks every week.  Any other man-made or natural disaster that inflicted this much damage—walloping an average of 10,000 people every day—would be a state of emergency, and we’d marshal our resources in response.  Instead, by refusing even to allow a vote, a minority of senators is choosing to walk away from the very emergency they are creating.

“The long-term unemployment crisis affects Americans of all political persuasions.  The proposal to renew federal jobless aid is the result of bipartisan compromise, as it includes cuts and offsets, and it deserves bipartisan support.  The American people are strongly in favor of an extension—they understand the terrible hardships that unemployed family, friends, and neighbors are going through.  Congress needs to heed their will and common sense.

“Millions of unemployed Americans want to work but can’t find jobs.  Meanwhile, they see elected representatives with good jobs who prefer procedural games to the real work of legislating.  The unemployed deserve better.  They deserve to have their representatives do their jobs, and vote—up or down—on restoring federal emergency unemployment benefits.   

“That’s what all Americans deserve.  We call on the Senate and House to remain in session and bring this most urgent matter to a vote without further delay.  Millions of America’s families are counting on them to do what’s right.”

Call your Senators at 877-267-2485.  Tell them:  "Don't you dare recess and leave town again without renewing federal unemployment insurance. Renew federal unemployment insurance without further delay!"

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