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Ben Nelson Explains Why He's Blocking the UI Extension

July 1, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

Sen. Ben Nelson [D, NE] crossed the aisle last night and gave Republicans the final vote they needed to block the Democrats’ attempt to extend unemployment insurance. The Democrats had the support of 59% of the Senate for their extension bill, but Nelson’s defection allowed the Republicans to sustain a filibuster of the Democrats’ attempt to move the bill to the floor for an up-or down vote. Breaking a filibusters requires a 3/5ths majority, or 60 votes.

Since Nelson is now standing between millions of unemployed Americans struggling to stay afloat until the extension is passed (most likely in mid July) and the immediate relief Democrats are trying to provide, it’s worth being aware of his reasoning. Below is a long excerpt from a statement he released the day before he blocked the Senate’s last attempt to pass an extension:

The bill has been revised several times already and each time the deficit spending was less. Tough choices are possible and necessary to not add to the deficit.

In early 2009, we passed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act with emergency spending to address an emergency, indeed a crisis. Hundreds of thousands of Americans were losing their jobs each month. We were in the worst recession since the Great Depression of the 1930s.

Some argue it wasn’t necessary, but the fact is today the economy is recovering and the Recovery Act clearly contributed to the welcome economic improvement.

Some also say we need more emergency spending now to keep the recovery going. But in my view it could jeopardize the recovery and would add to our already enormous deficit, likely to be around $1.4 trillion for the second year in a row.

I’d note that on April 13, 2010 the Nebraska Legislature adopted LR538, a resolution noting that the national debt has continued to grow, generating concern from economists, legislators and taxpayers across the country and that stated, ‘The Legislature remains committed to seeking a federal balanced budget.’

Further, $1 billion of the $1.5 billion Nebraska is to receive from the Recovery Act hasn’t yet been spent, according to the state’s recovery website. That includes about $250 million in state fiscal stabilization funds that will be spent in fiscal year 2011.

It’s important to note that the state of Nebraska delayed using Recovery Act funds for unemployment benefits for a year, and then only after the Legislature took the initiative to act on it.

So, Congress should provide additional unemployment benefits but not as a bailout to the states that worsens the deficit and passes the bills onto our children.

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