President Obama called for an up-or-down vote in the Senate on extending unemployment benefits.
Over 2 million unemployed people have stopped receiving their benefits, according to congressional estimates. Right now, across this country, many Americans are sitting at the kitchen table, theyre scanning the classifieds, theyre updating their resumes or sending out another job application, hoping that this time theyll hear back from a potential employer, Obama said on Monday. And theyre filled with a sense of uncertainty about where their next paycheck will come from.
Senate Democrats have attempted at least three times in the past month to extend benefits through the end of November, but so far have failed to reach the 60-vote margin for invoking cloture on the Republican-led filibuster (see Senate Again Fails to Pass Unemployment Extension). Republicans have argued that the $33 billion cost of the unemployment extension should come out of unused stimulus funds to avoid adding to the budget deficit, while Democrats say it should be classified as emergency spending.
The Senate next plans to hold a vote on Tuesday on the unemployment extension. The last vote earlier this month prior to the July 4 break fell short by just two votes after the death of Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W. Va. However, over the weekend, West Virginia Governor Joe Manchin named his former general counsel, Carte P. Goodwin, as a temporary replacement for Byrd. Goodwin is expected to be sworn in on Tuesday.
His vote, along with that of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., who withheld a yes vote for procedural reasons, should be enough to reach a 60-vote margin. The House approved the extension just before leaving on the July 4 break (see House Passes Unemployment Extension).
Despite the improved prospects for passage, Obama urged Republicans to drop their filibuster. Over the past few weeks, a majority of senators have tried not once, not twice, but three times to extend emergency relief on a temporary basis, he said. Each time, a partisan minority in the Senate has used parliamentary maneuvers to block a vote, denying millions of people who are out of work much-needed relief. These leaders in the Senate who are advancing a misguided notion that emergency relief somehow discourages people from looking for a job should talk to these folks.
Obama was joined at his news conference by three unemployed workers: Jim Chukalas of Fredon Township, N.J., who was laid off as a parts manager at a Honda dealership in 2008; Leslie Macko of Charlottesville, Va., who lost her job as an aesthetician last year; and Denise Gibson of Queens, N.Y., who was laid off as a maintenance supervisor in January.
Now, tomorrow we will have another chance to offer them that relief, to do right by not just Jim and Leslie and Denise, but all the Americans who need a helping hand right now and I hope we seize it, said Obama. Its time to stop holding workers laid off in this recession hostage to Washington politics. Its time to do whats right not for the next election but for the middle class.
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