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A New Bill for 99ers, But Is It Too Late?

December 19, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

With very few days left in the 111th session of Congress, Rep. Barbara Lee [D, CA-9] and Rep. Bobby Scott [D, VA-3], both members of the Congressional Black Caucus, have introduced new legislation to provide relief to unemployed workers who have exhausted all available insurance benefits and are still unemployed (i.e. the “99ers”). The bill, H.R. 6556, would not add a fifth tier of federal benefits. Instead, it would extend the length of the first tier of benefits from 20 weeks to 34 weeks and allow 99ers to collect the additional 14 weeks retroactively.

The introduction of this bill is not necessarily a sign of progress for getting relief for 99ers from Congress. Any member of Congress can introduce any bill they want on any topic. They don’t need approval from party leadership. They simply draft a bill, drop it in a box, and it’s considered pending before Congress. The real work is advocacy. Members who are serious about their bills lobby their colleagues to become co-sponsors, push their bills in committee hearings and floor speeches, and support the work of grassroots groups that are fighting for the same cause.

It’s unclear if Reps. Lee and Scott are serious about getting this passed, but even if they are, the bill faces enormous odds.

Right now, it appears that the Congress is planning to adjourn the session on Wednesday. It’s possible for them to come back after Christmas, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid [D, NV] has said that he is willing to stay in session until Jan. 5th if necessary, but, unless they fail to resolve any items this week that they consider “must-pass,” it’s unlikely.

Normally, bills are approved by committees before they get a vote on the floor. Given the time constraints, that’s clearly not possible with this bill. The only way for this to move in the legislative process at this point would be for the House Rules Committee to decide it is a privileged matter that should be put on the House calendar directly without prior committee approval. The Rules Committee is closely connected to the House leadership and generally considered an extension of the Speaker of the House, so this is really in the hands of Rep. Nancy Pelosi [D, CA-8]. To date, Pelosi has never specifically advocated for or pushed legislation to help people who have exhausted their unemployment benefits.

Ninety percent of bills die in the committees they were referred to upon introduction, and that’s the most likely outcome for this bill. But let’s imagine for a second what’s likely to happen if somehow that’s not the case.

If the bill gets to the House floor, it’s possible that it could be supported by a majority and passed. The House hasn’t been the chamber delaying unemployment benefits extensions these pays few years, it’s always been the Senate. Republicans in the Senate have consistently filibustered extensions of the filing deadline for the existing 99 weeks of unemployment benefits because they think they should be offset with corresponding spending cuts. According to the information posted by Rep. Scott, this bill does not include an offset. There’s no reason to think the Republicans’ position would be any different with this bill. In fact, it could be worse. Some Republicans have subscribed to the theory that unemployment benefits discourage people from looking for new jobs, so their opposition to adding additional weeks might be stronger than it is for just extending the filing deadline for the current level of weeks. Senate Democrats would need at least two Republicans to vote with them to break a filibuster on this bill. Without an offset, there’s no way that would happen.

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Displaying 31-41 of 41 total comments.

Ktula7 12/20/2010 5:21am

I’m 41 years old and have worked my butt off my whole life. I’m not wealthy, and certainly not getting wealthy on unemployment benefits. But when I was working, I was doing much better. I felt much better. I’ve got three children to support and tomorrow I will receive my last $300 check for unemployment 5 days before Christmas. I look for work daily to no avail. I’ve interviewed and then I heard that they hired someone who spoke Spanish to better serve their diverse needs. So there you have it! I’m an American, English speaking citizen, and lost a job to someone who was from another country. I know I’m getting off track, but if you want your American jobs back…lets create a bill for illegal immigration. This country is out of control!!

Checkless 12/20/2010 4:52am

We have to continue to have a positive outlook and believe that H.R. 6556 bill will be approved. We can’t give up now.

Thanks to Roz Zurko for writing this article in the Examiner-Hartford

wstaff 12/20/2010 4:21am

JudyE- Thank you. At least on the upside we the 99er’s have each other no matter how lonely it gets. Will have many more joining our ranks. What then 1000ers as a new Label? I do not hear any congress men or woman offering to invite us into their home for the holidays. What a bunch of (will feed you more b.s. just to feel good about ourselves). I love watching others cheer and bring in the holidays…. makes me feel very American.

codemoney 12/20/2010 4:21am

The reality is that politicians will gladly tell you that they ‘feel your pain’ but will not do a thing about it. This congress doesn’t care and the next congress REALLY doesn’t care. Their opinion is that the 99ers are just a buncha lazy welfare rats who should just dielike the surplus population they are. Nevermind that the Welfare Rat Rate (WRR) (AKA Unemployment rate) suddenly doubled one year and it just happened to correspond with the financial collapse (who are not welfare rats … but sure seemed to have gotten a lot of welfare).

Abaratarrr 12/20/2010 4:20am

PEople, the governemtn has to pass a budget by tuesday r the government shuts down!! they will not let that happen, we need a handful of democrats to refuse to pass that bill unless 6556 or 3706 is added to the bill, We can do this we just need to perter the bejesus out of congress,

Onto the hones I go, Call nancy pelosi several times aday, call the white house and all of your onw states reps, CALL, CALL, CALL, we can do this.

Let them know that the lateset extension did nothing for the long term unemployed. Tell them you are hungrey

Please be nice we want them to want to help us.

Thank you Donny for being quick to report on this bill

wstaff 12/20/2010 4:13am

poolplayer-your right. I had 4 months to go on my BA in criminal Justice and because I have no job,lost all my benefits I was forced to quit school because I could not afford 275.00 to continue my classes. Seems as tho even trying to get a degree in hopes to improve your life does not work either. The overqualified (new tactic)employers use is a smoke screen. You would think in order to maintain a well established business (over qualified) would help sub-stain the companies interest. Why not call it(Your to Educated For Us)? Probably the truth hurts,that is why. First Time in 30+ year I have felt so belittled by fellow Americans and to think I gave 12 + years in serving this country.Yeah me, 12+ years in the military so I can now feel like this. Shame on You America’s Congress!!!!!

JudyE 12/20/2010 4:12am

Seems to me that the biggest majority of 99er’s are shall I say older Americans. Me included. How fitting. Hang in there wstaff, I am praying for you it is all I can offer.

wstaff 12/20/2010 3:59am

I agree with Mrs.Brown and JudyE. The 2% employer tax cut should have had a stipulation that its only good if you hire additional employees. I can not stress enough how much I have been laughed at when applying for work, simply put Employers look down on anyone that is on unemployment. When it looks as tho I secured a job the last question I was asked, “Are you unemployed” was answered with a yes,some how the job was not available any longer. It is not that I have not been trying to find work, it is that nobody is hiring people like me on unemployment. I am tired of living with family in a car and looking for hand outs. I never in my 30 + years every thought I would become homeless.

poolplayer 12/20/2010 3:50am

The sad part is,the 99er’s are not counted as employed or unemployed.We are just in some sort of limbo area.We are also not included in the unemployment rate so it’s easy to just be left out in the cold.Why would they care about us if we’re not even counted?They will have to consider us soon because soon alot of people will exhaust their weeks up to 99.What then?We will be forced to start over with a job that can’t support our mortgages and families.That’s even if companies will even hire us because we are “overqualified”.What an excuse not to hire someone.It’s almost discriminatory in my opinion.I would get an entry level job if it meant I could progress!

JudyE 12/20/2010 3:13am

I agree with you DeborahJ. They are trying to make themselves look good after leaving us 99er’s out in the cold. They all had their chance along with the President and none of them, absolutely none of them did a thing. So, here we are days before Christmas and no money for food, gas, rent let alone anything for the children in our lives. But, the rest of the country goes on as if all is fine. Well you all just wait while the number of 99er’s increases week by week. Don’t come crying when crime, suicide, foreclosures and much more increase. Merry Christmas, what ever.

DeborahJBrown 12/20/2010 2:22am

So in other words — this is just an illusion, a fake attempt to make it appear as if someone is doing something. What a waste of time that is.

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