House Passes Emergency Unemployment Compensation Act

Posted on by Karina

On Tuesday, the House considered the Restoration of Emergency Unemployment Compensation Act. This legislation would extend unemployment insurance (UI) 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. While the bill fell short of receiving the necessary votes to pass with the two-thirds majority needed under suspension of the rules on Tuesday, today the House passed the bill under simple majority rules 270-153 to restore this economic lifeline.

Ways and Means Income Security and Family Support Subcommittee Chairman Jim McDermott (D-WA):

Rep. John Lewis (D-GA):

Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-NJ):

Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH):

Speaker Pelosi on passage:

Today, the House voted once again to extend a lifeline to millions of Americans who lost their jobs through no fault of their own, while Republicans continued to say no. It is past time for Congressional Republicans to stop standing in the way of relief for our families and to start standing up for our middle class.

These benefits help struggling families make ends meet, boost consumer demand to spur hiring by small businesses, and strengthen our economy as a whole. We must do everything possible to help those hardest hit by the Bush recession, as we continue working to create jobs, support small businesses, and build a stronger economy for all Americans.

The current lapse in extended benefits is unprecedented: Since 1959, the government has never allowed extended unemployment benefits to expire when the national unemployment rate is still above 7.2%. The current rate stands at 9.7%. Vote after vote, including last night, 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.

A timeline of Republicans blocking unemployment benefits in the last year:

Fall 2009

On September 22, the House passed legislation (H.R. 3548) to provide up to 13 additional weeks of unemployment benefits to workers in high unemployment states who are about to run out of benefits.

Senate Republicans delayed action on this bill for more than a month — leaving 500,000 Americans without unemployment benefits when they needed them the most.

February 2010

The House passed Temporary Extension Act (H.R. 4691), emergency legislation to extend UI benefits and certain other programs about to expire for 30 days on February 25.

But Republican Senator Jim Bunning singlehandedly blocked passage of this emergency measure, despite the serious consequences for families across the nation. He objected to Democrats' 11 requests to extend unemployment benefits. [Congressional Record, 2/24/10; Senate Floor, 2/25/10, 2/26/10, 3/1/10] And when Sen. Merkley (D-Ore.) begged him to drop his objection, Bunning replied: “Tough sh*t.” [Politico, 2/25]

This resulted in a three-day shut down of these critical programs that jeopardized unemployment benefits for more than one million Americans and furloughed thousands of highway and transit workers.

March 2010

The House passed the bill the Continuing Extension Act to extend unemployment benefits and other critical programs for 30 days on March 17, 2010.

But Senator Coburn blocked consideration of this bill. “Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) has blocked passage of a crucial package of expiring provisions, including extended unemployment insurance benefits that are scheduled to run out on April 5. Coburn has balked at Democrats' request for unanimous consent to pass the extensions, threatening a standoff similar to one that pitted Sen. Jim Bunning (R-Ky.) against the Democratic leadership last month.” [The Hill, 3/25/10]

With Senate Republicans action, these programs lapsed for twelve days. The Senate then extended unemployment benefits through May 29, 2010 — twenty-nine days later on April 15, 2010.

June 2010

The House passed the American Jobs and Closing Tax Loopholes Act (H.R. 4213), an American job creation bill which extends unemployment benefits for six months on May 28.

Senate Republicans have blocked moving forward on this crucial job creating legislation all month. Republicans blocked cloture to proceed to the bill on June 17. Even after more changes were made to achieve a compromise, Republicans blocked cloture again on June 24.

On June 29, more than 80 percent of House Republicans vote down a six month extension of unemployment benefits. [House Vote 398]

On June 30, Senate Republicans blocked consideration of a six month unemployment bill. The vote was 58-38.

The House awaits Senate action when they return. As Chairman Levin said today, “those who are still unemployed should not suffer due to the indifference of Republicans in Congress.”

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