Unemployment Extension Vote Live-BlogOctober 27, 2009 - by Donny Shaw
With the jobless rate at 9.8 percent and rising, Senate Democrats have scheduled a big vote this afternoon to move forward with their bill to extend unemployment insurance benefits (H.R. 3548), which has been blocked by Republicans for the past month. I’ll be live-blogging the debate and the vote here and I invite you to help me out in comments section with capturing all the key quotes and information. The debate is scheduled to begin at around 5:30 pm ET with a vote taking place at 6:00, and it will be televised live on C-SPAN 2 (live online video here).
In the past month, Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid [D, NV] has repeatedly tried to speed up passage of the bill under a unanimous consent agreement. But Republicans objected each time and said that they were seeking changes related to the bill’s funding (and a few changes that are totally unrelated). More details on the process so far can be found on the OpenCongress Benefits Wiki.
Today’s vote is to invoke cloture on the motion to proceed to an official debate of the bill. Invoking cloture requires 60 votes, and if it is approved the bill will move to the Senate floor for votes on amendments. Another cloture vote will likely be necessary to end the debate and bring the bill to a final up-or-down vote. The process will become clearer as the debate picks up, and I’ll be trying to keep track of it all here. Stay tuned!
4:30 p.m.: Reuters is reporting that bipartisan senators are very close to a deal for extending the $8,000 tax credit for first-time homebuyers. No specifics out on the deal yet, but apparently it may be voted on tonight as an amendment to the unemployment bill. If it’s added, it is going to slow down the House’s action on approving the Senate’s amended unemployment bill.
4:47 p.m.: Senators are filtering back into the chamber and starting to give floor speeches on the unemployment bill. Sen. Cardin (D-MD) is up with a map of his state explaining why the Senate is changing the House bill to apply the extension to every state. Maryland’s jobless rate is a little lower than the national average — it’s around 7% — but individual counties within the state have rate as high as 10.8%. Under the House bill, those counties would not have been given the extension while a county in another state with a lower rate but a statewide average above 8.5% would get the extension.
5:03 p.m.: Here’s a link to the roll call details on the motion to invoke cloture on the motion to proceed to the UI benefits extension that the Senate passed last November. The motion passed 89-6 back then when the jobless rate was at 6.7%.
5:15 p.m.: Majority Leader Reid (D-NV) is up for what is probably the last speech before the cloture debate begins: Approximately 150,000 people have run out of unemployment benefits since the Republicans began delaying this bill 3 weeks ago. “We have the power and the ability to act. Let’s do it!” “Republican response to helping the unemployed is ‘No!’”
5:30 p.m.: OK, the debate on the cloture motion on the motion to proceed is officially beginning and it’s time for opening statements. Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) is up first. “Total cost for our bill $2.4 billion, payed for with an extension of the federal unemployment tax.”
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) announced this afternoon, Tuesday October 27, that an extension of the $8,000 first-time homebuyer credit and more generous net operating loss carry-back rules for money-losing businesses will not be brought to the Senate floor for a vote. The unemployment insurance extension is still on the calendar and will be brought up as a stand-alone measure. HAI will provide updates as more information is released from Capitol Hill.
We’ll see if that’s accurate…
5:47 p.m.: Sen. Dorgan (D-ND) up: “Some of the people who are stalling the unemployment extension benefits were the same ones who rushed to the starting line last fall to see if they couldn’t hand hundreds of billions of dollars to the banks that ran this country into a ditch.”
5:50 p.m.: Really? No Republicans are going to speak on extending unemployment benefits? Vote’s in 10 minutes, it’s looking that way.
6:00 p.m.: The vote is underway …and it’s impossible to hear on C-Span how anyone is voting.
6:20 p.m.: Vote’s not quite over, but they’re well past 60 “ayes.” Here’s my running tally of the “noes” (13 so far):
Sen. John Barrasso [R, WY]
Sen. Christopher Bond [R, MO]
Sen. Jim Bunning [R, KY]
Sen. Thomas Coburn [R, OK]
Sen. John Cornyn [R, TX]
Sen. Jim DeMint [R, SC]
Sen. Michael Enzi [R, WY]
Sen. Lindsey Graham [R, SC]
Sen. Orrin Hatch [R, UT]
Sen. James Inhofe [R, OK]
Sen. Mike Johanns [R, NE]
Sen. Jefferson Sessions [R, AL]
Sen. David Vitter [R, LA]
Sen. Roger Wicker [R, MS]
6:26 p.m.: And that does it. Final vote tally is 87-13. The motion to proceed is agreed to.