July 20, 2010
More than two million unemployed Americans are relieved to hear that the U.S. Senate voted to override Republican objections and extend unemployment benefits, reported The New York Times.
In a 60 to 40 vote, senators ended the Republican filibuster and agreed to extend unemployment insurance through November. The final vote is expected to happen later today. The House is expected to approve the measure on Wednesday and President Obama will sign the bill into law shortly after.
In preparation for the vote, President Obama's weekly address criticized Republicans for blocking the extension, accusing them of using "procedural tactics" to prevent the bill's passage.
AOL News also reported that the President addressed the argument that unemployment benefits discourage people from looking for work. He argued that every American wants a meaningful job to support his or her family. "That attitude, I think, reflects a lack of faith in the American people," he said.
Republicans responded, saying that everyone agreed that the bill should be passed. "[The] debate is about whether in extending these benefits we should add to the debt or not," said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky) in Bloomberg Businessweek.
According to The Wall Street Journal, Democrats reached the 60-vote supermajority shortly after Carte Goodwin (D-W.V.) was sworn in as the new senator replacing the late Robert Byrd. Two moderate Maine Republicans, Senators Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe, joined Democrats in supporting the bill. Senators Scott Brown (R-Mass.) and George Voinovich (R-Ohio) opposed it. Senator Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) also voted against the extension.
The legislation will push total unemployment benefit spending this year to more than $130 billion, but it will offer the long-term unemployed up to 99 weeks of assistance and will also retroactively provide aid to those who lost their benefits in the midst of the Senate deadlock, reported Bloomberg Businessweek.
In order to pass the bill, Democrats dropped some of last year's provisions, such as a 65 percent subsidy to help the jobless buy health insurance through their former employers as well as the additional $25 weekly benefit that was part of the economic stimulus. Additionally, Democrats do not plan to extend aid to Americans who have already exhausted the maximum 99 weeks of insurance.
The New York Times speculated that the debate over unemployment extension will play a key role in midterm elections. Republicans believe they will solidify their vote among those worried about the rising deficit. Democrats, on the other hand, believe they will find support among those who criticize Republicans for their willingness to set aside deficit concerns when supporting tax cuts for the affluent, but not when unemployment insurance benefits for millions of Americans were at stake.
Compiled by CityTownInfo.com Staff
"Extension of Benefits for the Jobless Clears Senate Hurdle," nytimes.com, July 20, 2010, Carl Hulse
"Obama Urges Senate to Pass Unemployment Extension," AOLNews.com, July 19, 2010, Steven Hoffer
"Senate Advances Jobless Aid Plan Over Republican Objections," businessweek.com, July 20, 2010, Laurie Asseo and Don Frederick
"Unemployment-Benefits Measure Advances in Senate," online.wsj.com, July 20, 2010, Corey Boles
"Weekly Address: Filibustering Recovery & Obstructing Progress," whitehouse.gov, July 17, 2010