Ohio's two U.S. Senators, Sherrod Brown and Rob Portman, polar opposites on most issues, came together Monday to help pass a bipartisan bill that would restore for just five months emergency unemployment insurance (EUI) for 52,000 Ohioans who are among the more than two million job-seeking Americans for whom federal help for the long-term unemployed has run out.
Sen. Brown, a Democrat reelected to a second term in 2012, and a group of nine other U.S. senators reached a bipartisan deal that would restore these benefits and provide retroactive payments to eligible beneficiaries going back to December 28, 2013. When a similar bill last came to a vote, Sen. Portman, a Republican widely expected to seek a second term in 2016, was no on-board.
Commenting after the 59-38 vote today, Sen. Brown, a long-time strong voice for workers, called on the House of Representatives, especially Ohio Congressman and House Speaker John Boehner, to take similar action to protect the millions of families still struggling since the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.
"Today, the Senate came together to pass a bipartisan bill that would extend unemployment insurance for millions of Americans and thousands of Ohio workers," Brown said in a statement. "This legislation would improve our economy and ensure that Ohioans who work hard and take responsibility will have the resources they need to take care of their families while looking for a new job. Now it is up to Speaker Boehner to do the right thing for these families—and our economy—by voting to extend emergency unemployment insurance."
President Barack Obama was quick to weigh-in on the action the Senate took Monday. "Today the Senate acted in a bipartisan way to reinstate emergency unemployment insurance for 2.3 million Americans who depend on it as they search for work," the president said. "As I’ve said time and again, Washington needs to put politics aside and help these hard-working, responsible Americans make ends meet and support their families as they look for a job." Each week Congress fails to act on this crucial issue, he said, roughly 70,000 long-term unemployed Americans lose their vital economic lifeline.
Like Sen. Brown, President Obama called on House Republicans "to stop blocking a bipartisan compromise that would stem this tide, take up the bill without delay, and send it to my desk. Let’s remove this needless drag on our economy and focus on expanding opportunity for all Americans."
Reports indicate a small band of Republican supporters wasted no time in appealing to House Speaker John Boehner, who is no fan of this brand of jobless worker help, to allow the House to vote on it, even in an election year.
Seven House Republicans wrote Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia that steps are needed "to restore unemployment benefits to struggling Americans," the AP wrote.
Based on Speaker Boehner's hostility to this issue before because it has to include provisions to help create more private sector jobs, Senators who united today should lose little sleep waiting for the speaker to act. Given widespread opposition among conservative lawmakers and outside groups and Boehner's unwillingness to allow it to the floor without changes that Republicans say would enhance job creation, the bill and the jobless workers it would help will flounder.
According to information from Capital Hill, more than 790,000 Ohioans have received EUI benefits between 2008 and 2013. If EUC is not extended, more than 128,000 Ohioans would lose their benefits, including 52,000 who have already lost benefits. Since 2008, more than 6,500 Ohio jobs have been saved due to EUC benefits, which amount to an average weekly amount in Ohio of $318 that tops out at a maximum weekly unemployment benefit in Ohio of just $413. Nationwide, men's median weekly income pay is $854 compared to just $691 for women who earn nearly 20-percent less than men.
Portman helped break a filibuster that would have kept the bill from moving forward to a floor vote, but then voted against it when it did. The former Congressman from Cincinnati who served as Budget director for President George W. Bush and later as his trade representative, said would back a bill that was short-term and paid for and reforms what he called a broken program.
Explaining his reason for voting no, Sen. Portman said told an Ohio newspaper that he hoped talks would continue "so we can get back to work determining how do we do the right thing…for those constituents we represent who are long-term unemployed, who are not getting the assistance that they’re looking for and they need through the current unemployment insurance program."
The current UI program, he said, "is failing to connect Americans with jobs, and after this short-term bill is passed, it’s critical that we continue to work on making significant long-term reforms to help get people back on their feet."
This new legislation was introduced by U.S. Sens. Jack Reed (D-RI) and Dean Heller (R-NV), and is cosponsored by Sen. Brown and Sen. Portman as well as U.S. Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Mark Kirk (R-IL), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Cory Booker (D-NJ), and Dick Durbin (D-IL). If it becomes law in its present form, the bill would boost the U.S. economy while providing job seekers and their families a vital lifeline as they continue to look for work.
The proposal is fully paid-for, one reason why Sen. Portman got on-board this time, using a combination of offsets that includes extending "pension smoothing" provisions from the 2012 highway bill, which were set to phase out this year, and extending customs user fees through 2024. The bill also includes an additional offset allowing single-employer pension plans to prepay their flat rate premiums to the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation.
Sen. Brown released county-by-county data earlier this year on the number of Ohioans who lost their unemployment insurance after 2013. In total, his office reports that more than 52,000 Ohioans were immediately stripped of their EUC benefits as a result of an extension not passing or their 63 weeks of eligibility for the program expiring. By the end of 2014, another 76,000 Ohioans could lose their emergency unemployment insurance if a long-term extension is not passed.
The EUC program was authorized by Congress in 2008 and has supported nearly 69 million Americans, including almost 17 million children. In 2012, unemployment benefits helped keep about 2.5 million Americans further away from poverty, which included 600,000 children.
The news article Ohio Sens Brown, Portman vote for new EUI bill. Will Ohio's Boehner battle it? appeared first on Columbus Government Examiner.
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