The Emergency Extended Unemployment Compensation Act, a bill that would have immediately provided up to 13 weeks of extended unemployment benefits to jobless workers in every state, was defeated today on the House floor with a 279-144 vote (short of the two-thirds necessary under suspension of the rules), with all “nays” cast by Republicans.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, said Democrats would bring back the legislation to the floor under a regular rule. But that’s not all she said:
“Today Congress had an opportunity to take swift action to help millions of our fellow Americans who are struggling to find work in the slowing economy. Last week’s increase in the unemployment rate – the highest in 20 years — demands that Congress act swiftly. The number of long-term unemployed Americans is higher now than when Congress last extended unemployment benefits in 2002.
“A majority of House Republicans instead decided to support President Bush’s veto threat against extending unemployment benefits – despite the fact that it will help 3.8 million Americans and stimulate the entire economy.
“Our work is not done and we will bring this bill back to the House floor tomorrow under a regular rule to ensure that this critical legislation arrives at the President’s desk as soon as possible.”
Said House Education & Labor Committee Chairman George Miller, D-Martinez:
“To the Republican members of Congress who live in a Washington bubble, it might seem like everything is fine with the U.S. economy right now. But to American workers, we’re in a recession. Over 300,000 American workers have lost their jobs since the start of the year, and there are 8.5 million workers who want a job but don’t have one. Making matters worse, workers and their families must cope with rising energy and food costs and the fallout from the housing crisis.
“For laid-off workers, the paychecks stop coming, but someone still has to put gas in the car to drive to school and church and run errands. Paycheck or no paycheck, someone still has to buy groceries, and someone still has to pay the mortgage. House Republicans apparently don’t care about any of that. They apparently don’t believe that workers who lose their jobs through no fault of their own deserve some help making ends meet while they look for new employment. And they apparently don’t understand that helping workers also helps the economy by injecting demand into it.
“With the unemployment rate rising quickly, there are many American families who need this assistance. Democrats in Congress will not stop pushing until workers get the help they need in these difficult times. It is the right thing to do for workers and it’s the smart thing to do for the economy.”
And said Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton: “It’s clear our economy is in trouble. As prices for gas, food and other necessities continue to rise and the economy contracts, providing a temporary extension of unemployment benefits for Americans who have lost their jobs is the right thing to do.”
But, House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, responded:
“Let me thank my colleague from Illinois for yielding time and make clear that I want to vote for a bill that extends unemployment benefits to those who have been laid off in areas where we have high unemployment. But the bill before us is not targeted at states where we’ve seen a spike in unemployment. We’ve got an unemployment rate in Oklahoma, as an example, of about 2.6 percent or maybe you could go to, I think it’s South Dakota, where the unemployment rate is about 2.4 percent. Yet, under this bill, it’s a federal mandate – one-size-fits-all for all 50 states. And I just think that if we’re going to be serious about spending taxpayer money, we ought to target that money to those areas where we have high unemployment and where people need our help.
“The bill also eliminates the requirement that individuals put in at least 20 weeks of work to collect extended unemployment benefits. And when this was put into the law, when we extended this law in 2002, almost all the Democrat members voted to do this. And what it means is that some people could work as little as two weeks, two weeks, and receive up to 52 weeks of unemployment benefits and I don’t think that’s neither reasonable nor is it a good use of limited taxpayer resources.
“I’m open to extending unemployment benefits, but I think this bill that we have before us falls far short of what we need to do. It’s neither fair to unemployed workers who truly need our help, nor to taxpayers who are going to fund it. I think we can do better and before we send the final version of this bill to the President, I hope that we will do better. And I hope we will work in a bipartisan way to come to an agreement, to extend unemployment benefits in a reasonable, responsible way. But in the meantime, this bill is not the answer and I would urge my colleagues to vote no.”
UPDATE @ 1:15 P.M. THURSDAY: House Democrats brought the bill forth again today, and this time it passed on a veto-proof, bipartisan vote of 274 to 137.
Said Pelosi: “All Americans are feeling real, serious, and deep economic pain. Yet President Bush has issued a veto threat against this legislation – despite the fact that it will help 3.8 million Americans and in fact, the entire economy. I urge the President to reconsider his veto threat and stand with hard-working Americans, just as he did in 2002.”