Over a month ago, the House passed the American Jobs and Closing Tax Loopholes Act to help create or save more than a million American jobs and extend critical unemployment insurance benefits to help Americans who have lost their jobs through no fault of their own make ends meet. Vote after vote, Senate Republicans have obstructed the legislation and now nearly two million families are without their economic lifeline–by July 3rd, about 1.7 million unemployed workers will have lost their UI benefits because of the latest refusal to act by Senate Republicans:
Today, the House debated the Restoration of Emergency Unemployment Compensation Act (H.R. 5618) under suspension of the rules. This emergency legislation would extend the Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC) and Extended Benefits programs through November 30, 2010 and retroactively restore benefits to people who may have started losing their benefits as early as the end of May–some after just 26 weeks. Chairman Sander Levin (D-MI):
Those who vote 'no' have no place to hide. This is an emergency for 1.7 million people and their families right now. Therefore it’s an emergency for the community of the United States of America. That 1.7 million will grow and grow under this banner that is floated by the Republicans.
The excuses fall of their own lack of weight. They could not find a single Republican in the Senate to vote for legislation that would create jobs and extend unemployment benefits, so they finger point at those who acted and excuse those who refuse to act.
Republicans bring up the deficit, a deficit that grew under the previous Administration. They can’t hide behind that. This is an emergency. They have not come up with any responsible, feasible way to excuse inaction. Unemployment insurance was extended many times under Republican Presidents, so they don’t even have that excuse. There’s no excuse. What was done under previous Administrations, Republican and Democratic, should be done right today.
I'm afraid Republicans don’t see that there’s an emergency for the soon-to-be two million families without benefits. In terms of economic growth, when you provide unemployment insurance to people, they spend it. So if Republicans are worried about growth and consumer demand, they should work to put money in the pockets of people who are desperate, who are out of work, who are looking for work. Instead, they turn their backs on them.
I want to read a story. I met this person in Hazel Park, Michigan, last weekend. He served three years and nine months in the U.S. Army, including a year tour in Iraq. He has an Associate's degree from a community college and a Bachelor's degree. He was employed by a loan company, a mortgage company as a broker, and then the mortgage crisis came and he was laid off. He was unemployed for three months and then he was hired by K-mart as an assistant store manager. He was laid off in 2009, August, due to store closing. He has currently approximately four weeks left on his extension due to expire on July 14.
There are 1.7 million people like this gentleman in America today. I don’t know how Republicans look them in the face. I don’t know how they explain a 'no' vote. I think the flimsy arguments that are used won’t work in this hall and won’t work back home.
This is an emergency. I really can’t believe that Republicans are going to come here and vote 'no.' They’re voting 'no' for millions. They’re voting 'no' for what I think is best for the United States of America. We are a community of people. When people lose their jobs and can’t find them, we don’t stand and simply stand idly by. This is the time for Republicans to stand up, and the only way to stand up is to vote 'yes.'
I plead on behalf of the millions of people in this country out of work looking for jobs that Republicans stand with us to provide the unemployment insurance that Americans have worked for and that should be provided. Don't turn your backs on them. In the end there will be no excuse.
The bill fell short of receiving the necessary votes (261-155) to pass with the two-thirds majority needed under suspension of the rules. The House will try again to restore this economic lifeline under rules requiring a simple majority for passage later this week. As the Speaker said on Friday, “it really has to happen.”
UPDATE: Speaker Pelosi on today’s vote:
Today, Congressional Republicans refused to extend a lifeline to millions of Americans who lost their jobs through no fault of their own. They blocked our effort to help struggling families make ends meet, put money in the pockets of our workers, and invest in one of the most cost-effective ways to stimulate our economy.
This is simply the latest example of Congressional Republicans putting partisan politics ahead of the public well-being. It reflects an agenda to return to the policies that produced the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression and that favor special interests and Wall Street over small businesses and Main Street.
The American people deserve better. Democrats will not abandon those hardest hit by the Bush recession and we will keep working to create jobs and strengthen our middle class, while restoring fiscal responsibility.