Last week, the House unanimously approved legislation to extend a range of emergency relief and job creating funding critical to millions of families that were set to expire on Sunday, February 28th including:
Unemployment Insurance: Extends unemployment benefits, including the increased payouts and longer duration of benefits from the Recovery Act
Help with Health Insurance for Unemployed Workers (COBRA): Extends the COBRA health insurance subsidy for people who have lost their jobs
Surface Transportation Authorization: Authorizes the highway, highway safety, transit and motor carrier safety programs of the Department of Transportation
Medicare Physician Payments: Delays a scheduled 21.2% cut in Medicare physician payments to protect Medicare beneficiaries' access to physicians
Small Business Loans: Extends two temporary improvements to the Small Business Administration's loan guarantee program, raising the percentage of loan amounts that the SBA can guarantee and allowing SBA to waive or reduce loan fees
Flood Insurance: Extends the National Flood Insurance Program authorization
Satellite Television: Extends the compulsory copyright license used by satellite television providers
While this 30-day extension passed with unanimous support in the House, one Senator, Sen. Jim Bunning (R-KY), is singlehandedly blocking this emergency legislation from getting to the President’s desk — and these provisions have now expired. A closer look at who is impacted by this obstruction:
American workers: Nearly 1.2 million — including 14,000 in Kentucky — will lose unemployment benefits at the end of March without an extension:
“Outrageous,” said Melanie Meredith. “We’re very outraged, Bunning. This is going to affect the infrastructure. This is not a welfare program. We’ve paid into this unemployment. We’re people who need it. We want to get back to work. It’s not happening. This unemployment is all we have to keep our mortgages going.”
Seniors: Doctors treating Medicare patients will face a 21 percent payment cut effective today, March 1:
American Medical Association President J. James Rohack, M.D: “It is shocking that the Senate would abandon our most vulnerable patients, making them the collateral damage of their procedural games.”
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood: “In addition to the dismay of these American workers, we must add the disruption of key safety programs. Programs like “Drunk Driving: over the limit, under arrest” campaign, our current work against distracted driving, and our work promoting child passenger safety and motorcycle safety. These are programs that work to change driving practices that kill 37,000 Americans every year.”
Small businesses are vital to the U.S. economy — employing half of all American workers.
Sen. Bunning claims he is holding up this emergency legislation because of the bill's cost (an estimated $10 billion over the next 10 years) but he voted:
YES on the 2001 Bush Tax Cuts — Increases Deficit by $1.35 Trillion over 10 years
YES on 2003 Bush Tax Cuts — Increases Deficit by $349.7 Billion over 10 years
YES on the GOP's 2003 Medicare Prescription Drug Bill — Increases Deficit by $395 Billion over 10 years
These three bills alone added nearly $2 trillion to the deficit.
Last fall, the House approved legislation adding up to 20 weeks to the federal unemployment benefits. Senate Republicans delayed action on this bill, which ultimately passed by a unanimous vote of 98-0, for more than a month. During the delay more than 200,000 people stopped receiving checks when they needed them the most. It’s time for Senate Republicans to stop this obstruction.