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Senate fails to advance long-term jobless unemployment benefits extension 58-40

Senate Republicans again refused to support an unemployment benefits extension, and the bill failed to pass a procedural vote that only needed one more Republican to side with the Democrats, Feb. 6, 2014
Senate Republicans again refused to support an unemployment benefits extension, and the bill failed to pass a procedural vote that only needed one more Republican to side with the Democrats, Feb. 6, 2014
Larry Downing, Reuters

The Senate again failed to advance a revised unemployment benefits extension bill with a vote of 58-40 on Thursday, Feb. 6, 2014, which would resulted in a three-month benefits extension. The bill garnered 4 Republican votes, but needed five to pass the cloture vote, ending the filibuster and this procedural hurdle; bills need 60 votes to pass. Upon seeing that the bill would not pass, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-NV dissented in his vote to have the ability to bring up the bill for a vote again, and he promised "We are not going to give up on the unemployed."

The main reason for the last impasse in January was that Democratic would not provide funding to cover and offset the $6.5 billion bill, except that it would be added the deficit, and were only willing to cover the cost of a nine-month bill, which the Republicans refused to commit to. This time the bill would have altered the "accounting method" for "defined-benefit pension contributions," that uses "historic interest rate averages" yielding more funds, which would have covered the entire cost of the three-month extension.

The method is called "pension smoothing" and the Republicans agreed to that way of funding previously for the student loans bill in 2012. With the bill's cost covered, the Republicans added another demand that the bill should be opened for amendments to be added, which Senate Majority Leader Reid opposes. The Republicans particularly wanted to reform to the benefits program in general, and "repeal the cuts to the cost of living reduction increases" for "retired military personnel" that had been included in the budget. Reid had already permitted that a Republican stipulation be added to prevent anybody who earned a million in the "previous year" to receive any benefits, ensuring it would only go to those that truly need the benefits.

Senate Democratic leadership is angry at the Republicans for not voting in favor of the bill Democratic whip Sen. Dick Durbin, D-IL told the press that the reason the Republicans refused to cross party lines and support the extension is because "They believe unemployed people are lazy. They believe they're lazy, and if you give them $300 a week to pay their rent, utility bills, put food on the table, a little gas in the car, they're going to lay back and take that forever." Generally Republicans have opposed the extension because they believe it does not motivate the unemployed to find a job as long as they have access to benefits.

The White House was disappointed with the vote especially considering how close it was, and encouraged bipartisanship to get the extension passed. Press Secretary Jay Carney stated at the daily press briefing; "We cannot allow one vote to stand in the way of supporting these Americans as they struggle to find work. Both sides of the aisle have worked together to prevent this kind of hardship in the past, and neglecting to do so now is unacceptable."

On Dec. 28, 2013 1.3 million Americans lost access to benefits, and each week about 70,000 Americans will lose benefits. The unemployment benefits extension last stalled in the Senate on Wednesday, Jan. 15 after it failed with a vote of 55-45, unable move to the next stage since it could not muster the 60 votes needed, including the support of five Republicans.

The Heller-Reed extension bill authored and sponsored by Sens. Dean Heller, R-NV and Jack Reed, D-R.I.stalled in the Senate after it passed its first protocol vote on Tuesday, Jan. 7 which moved it beyond the cloture stage. The Senate bipartisan plan would have extended unemployment benefits for another three months. Republicans and Democrats could not reach an agreement about the time length and way to pay for the costly extension.

During the 2008 recession when Republican George W. Bush was President the government enlarged the Federal Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC) Program to extend unemployment benefits beyond the 26 weeks that the states give. During the recession the "combined" state and federal benefits gave unemployed Americans 99 weeks of relief. The federal government provides "47 weeks" of extended benefits averaging "$300 a week."

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