Democrats are refusing to budge on the issue of extending long-term benefits to jobless Americans. Rather, they are forging ahead with a vote in the Senate today that Republicans claim is nothing more than a political exercise and really not an effort to resolve the issue.
The vote was supposed to be taken on Monday but weather delayed that from happening. Harry Reid, Senate Majority Leader announced plans to call for a vote sometime Tuesday morning. Republicans in the Senate, many whom have said they would be willing to support an extension if it is compensated for, are criticizing Democratic leadership for advocating a three-month legislation that would not do anything to offset a cost of $6.4 billion in other places in the federal budget.
Leading Republican lawmakers are making the suggestion that Democrats have more of an interest in shaming Republicans in the Senate than in passing a bill that has merit. Returning from Capitol Hill, it did not take long for lawmakers to engage in heated rhetoric. Reid kicked it off by saying that middle class citizens are “under siege” and indicated Democrats would not be budging on the matter of extending jobless benefits. National Economic Council director Gene Sperling told reporters at a White House press conference that the bill should be passed with “no strings attached.”
Reid needs sixty senators to vote in the affirmative for the bill to pass. Five of those need to be Republicans. Senator Dean Heller, a Republican from Nevada, is co-sponsor of the bill but it is unclear whether Reid can convince another four Republicans to vote with him. Senator Susan Collins, a Republican from Maine, is rumored to vote for the advancement of the bill. However, many Republicans complain that the proposed legislation is not yet compensated. Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions, a Republican, told Fox News that the bill was all on borrowed money.
Senator Tom Coburn from Oklahoma took issue with Democrats saying that his party is indifferent and careless toward people. He said truth has been abandoned in Washington and that work from Capitol Hill is now based on spin rather than fact. President Barack Obama plans to speak to the nation concerning the bill and other issues centered on the economy sometime before noon from the White House.
In the way it is presented, the bill would re-instate anywhere between 14 and 47 weeks of benefits. This averages $256 weekly to 1.3 million of those who were affected when the program actually expired on December 28. If Congress does not take action, than thousands will feel the impact on a weekly basis as benefits from each state expire.
Currently, Republicans are divided into three schools of thought. There are those who appear to side with Heller in his support of the bill, those who insist that the cost of the bill be paid for, and a final group who opposes the bill regardless of the circumstances.
At issue was a convoluted structure that provides up to 47 weeks of government funded benefits which are slated to begin after state benefits expire. State benefits usually expire after 26 weeks. The first awarding of additional federal benefits is 14 weeks and, as a general rule, available to everyone who is no longer receiving the state funds. An additional 14 weeks of payments are available in states where the unemployment rate is higher than six percent. Nine more weeks of benefits are available in states with a jobless rate of seven percent or greater. Ten weeks are available in states where the unemployment rate is nine percent or higher.
Republicans are resolved to oppose the extension, but Democrats say they will hold the line in the Senate and not in any way be budging on the bill concerning jobless benefits.
By Rick Hope