GOP Blocks Unemployment Insurance Bill Once Again, Dems Giving UpJune 24, 2010 - by Donny Shaw
Despite shaving another $22 billion off the price tag of H.R. 4213, the unemployment insurance, jobs and tax extenders bill, the Democrats this afternoon failed for the third time in three weeks to defeat a Republican filibuster. As a result, Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid [D, NV] is giving up and moving onto other legislative matters. “We can’t pass it until we get some Republicans… It’s up to them,” Reid said.
All Republicans plus Sen. Ben Nelson [D, NE] voted “no” today on a “cloture motion” to end a Republican filibuster and move forward on debate of the bill. Cloture motions require 60 votes to be approved under Senate rules. That means that Republicans were able to sink the bill despite having only 41 votes today in the 100-seat Senate.
Congressional inaction on the bill has led to more than a million unemployed people losing their unemployment insurance benefits since the late extension was allowed to expire on June 2. With unemployment stuck at around 9% nationally, millions more are set to lose this critical lifeline in the coming weeks and months if Congress does not act. You can read the stories of some of the people who have lost their jobs as a result of the financial crisis and are seeing their benefits expire at the National Employment Law Project website.
Earlier today, Sen. Debbie Stabenow [D, MI] told bloggers on a conference call that she believes Republicans are opposing the bill because they “want the economy to fail” because they will likely do better in November the worse the economy gets. The more conventional explanation for the Republicans’ lock-step opposition is that they fear the political reperecussions of voting in favor of any legislation that would add to the deficit this close to the mid-term elections.
The one glimmer of good news for unemployed folks in all this is that Sen. Olympia Snowe [R, ME], one of the key swing votes, said on the Senate floor today that she would vote in favor of a stand-alone unemployment benefits extension bill, even if it has no cost offsets. But even with Snowe’s support, Democrats might still be one vote short on a stand-alone, not-offset bill. Democrat Ben Nelson [NE] said after the second time the Senate rejected cloture on the bill because parts of it weren’t paid for. “I want to see it all offset,” he said.
QUICK UPDATE: I’m seeing a lot of questions on Facebook and Twitter about why they Democrats haven’t already tried splitting off the unemployment insurance section into a stand-alone bill. Here’s what I wrote on June 18, the last time the Republicans blocked the bill:
The reason the Dems don’t split off pieces of the bill — say, the unemployment benefits section — and try to pass them separately with a full debate is that it would give Republicans an opportunity to stall all Senate action for a week or longer. The Republicans may not necessarily oppose the unemployment benefits extension or the doc fix, but they will filibuster and force an extended debate in order to eat up precious Senate time that the Democrats want to use for other things this session, like energy legislation, responding to Citizens United, and immigration reform. Sen. Tom Coburn’s [R, OK] move yesterday to employ the “clay pigeon” procedure and force votes on dozens of contentious amendments illustrates the kind of tools Republicans could use on each piece of this bill if the Dems tried splitting it up.
The Republicans in the Senate have repeatedly drawn out the debate on stand-alone unemployment insurance extension votes this session even when they were not actually opposed to them. For example, in October, the Republicans held blocked it for five weeks, despite letting it pass in the end on a unanimous 98-0 vote.