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Senate Set for Lame-Duck Votes on Unemployment and Big-Three Bailout

November 13, 2008 - by Donny Shaw

This has been a week of back-and-forth between President-elect Barack Obama, President Bush and Democratic leaders in Congress over bailing out the auto industry and passing an economic stimulus package, but a way forward seems to have finally emerged.

New York Times:

>Mr. Reid, on Thursday, said that he would open a lame-duck session in the Senate on Monday, hoping to move forward with legislation that would extend unemployment benefits and to attach an amendment providing aid for the auto companies.
>Aides to Ms. Pelosi said the House would be brought back into session as of 1 p.m. Wednesday and would remain on standby, awaiting action by the Senate.

As the Times article explains, the prospects of enacting an auto industry bailout and a broader economic stimulus package have dwindled throughout the week and at this point both are basically being put off until January. Earlier in the week, there was some indication that the unemployment benefits extension, despite last week’s worse-than-expected numbers, was going to be held hostage to the auto industry bailout or the broader stimulus package, but that doesn’t seem to be the case anymore.

The way I read the article, the Senate on Monday will vote on H.R. 6867, a bill to extend unemployment benefits that was passed by the House in October, right after they passed the Wall Street bailout. The bill passed the House by an overwhelming vote of 368-28 and it has a fairly good chance of passing in the Senate next week. Neither Obama or Biden will be in the Senate for the lame-duck session on Monday, so the Democrats will need to find 11 Republicans to vote with them to overcome the 60-vote barrier to passing the bill. They’ll also be voting on an amendment to bailout the auto industry, but that is expected to fail, in which case they’ll move forward with just the unemployment bill.

The Senate extended unemployment benefits once before this session in June as part of a war funding bill. Twenty-eight Republicans voted for the bill then; this is the list of Republicans that aren’t completely opposed to an unemployment extension and could possibly vote for the unemployment bill on Monday.

UPDATE: Earlier on Thursday, The Hill reported a different legislative agenda for the lame-duck session:

>Senate Democrats are putting the finishing touches on next week’s legislative agenda, which will be dominated by an economic stimulus plan and consisting of little else.
>Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) wants to move a package with four or five components, including $25 billion in loans for the auto industry, aid to states struggling with Medicaid-caused budget deficits, increased infrastructure spending and possible additional spending on food stamps. Those ideas had been suggested by Democratic leaders, but Reid had not actually finalized the agenda until Wednesday afternoon, said a senior Democratic aide.
>It is unclear whether the package will include provisions long sought by Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) that would allow bankruptcy judges to modify the terms of mortgages. Republicans have repeatedly resisted those provisions.

I’ll update again once there’s some more official word on how things are going to go down next week.

UPDATE 2: via an anonymous comment left on the H.R. 6867 OpenCongress bill page, here’s a letter sent today from Majority Leader Reid to Minority Leader McConnell:

>Dear Mr. Leader:
>I am writing to again see if Senate Republicans would be willing to work on a bipartisan basis to address the urgent problems facing our nation’s economy.
>As you know, millions of American families are struggling to make ends meet. Unemployment has increased, foreclosures have exploded, retirement savings have eroded, and consumer confidence is at an all-time low. Businesses are suffering from declining sales, and many are preparing for a significant downturn. In response, economists of all political stripes have called for Congress to pass an aggressive economic recovery package.
>In my view, the adoption of a robust recovery package should be the top priority of the upcoming lame duck session. That is why I intend to seek consent on a bill to create jobs, prevent large tax increases and cuts in state services, strengthen our nation’s manufacturing sector, and assist those struggling to find a job.
>Based on our conversation earlier this week, however, I understand that you currently oppose such a package and that Senate Republicans are prepared and able to block such legislation. This is disappointing and I hope you will reconsider.
>Unless I hear from you to the contrary, I plan to press forward with two provisions of that package – an extension of unemployment benefits, which passed the House by a bipartisan vote of 368-28 and legislation to protect the millions of workers at risk from the possible collapse of our domestic auto industry. These two provisions both address especially urgent needs and seem most likely to win your support and the support of your caucus.
>I would hope you would procedurally allow the necessary votes early next week.
>Best Regards,
>Harry Reid

This letter seems to indicate that the above NYT article is more accurate than the Hill article. But then there’s this article from CNN that makes it sound like the voting on Monday will be on an entirely new piece of legislation that has yet to be made public: “In an attempt to garner more support for the bill, Reid said an extension of unemployment benefits would also be added to the legislation.”

Btw, I talked to a staffer in Reid’s office, and she said she could not divulge any information about the legislative process next week. So, for now, we’ll have to keep deciphering these cryptic news articles.

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  • Anonymous 11/14/2008 6:35am

    Hey Reid can you just allow a clean vote on this clean extension Bill? You are a disgrace. Hope the people living in tents in your state vote you out in 2010. I will never forget how you have have treated some of the biggest victims of the economy. You and the rest of the Democrats should be ashamed. Let GM fail. Why don’t they cut the pay of it’s CEO and executives before coming to the Government? And their international sales and profits are great in Asia and Russia. Let them figure it out without robbing worker’s of their pensions and taxpayer’s of their money.

  • Comm_reply
    Anonymous 11/15/2008 2:30pm

    the UAW spokesman is foolish
    they have no business getting any relief money

  • Static357 11/14/2008 7:58am

    I agree completely. Let these companies fail. Since when is the government supposed to be in the business of bailing out the private sector? That is not how our free-market system works. If a company fails due to it’s own inability to compete or mismanagement, than even if it gets bailed out, they will be back around again in ten years looking for another handout at taxpayers expense. This is an outrage and the taxpayers of this nation will not stand for it. America, join me in voting out anyone who supports taking your hard erned money and forking it over to those that don’t deserve it. It is a terrible idea and we simply can’t afford it.

  • Anonymous 11/14/2008 9:20am
    Link Reply
    + -1

    This is a bunch of PR crap.
    The unemployment extension was on the docket for the Senate right after it passed in the House. Kennedy’s office told me that it had been scheduled.
    Democrats are trying to give Obama credit for this. They sold out workers to make a political point.
    Vote them all out.

  • Anonymous 11/14/2008 9:38am

    Pelosi keeps telling main street that we should hurry up and help main street out. Well, where is the emergency help at? In two weeks you passed 700 billion dollars to Wall Street, so why can you not pass the unemployment benefit extension just as fast. Families have lost there jobs and they wanted to work, but were laid off. These families cannot pay rent, food for their children and why should they suffer any longer. It only takes 30 days to get behind and lose everything you worked for.
    Get your #$@% together and help out the American people NOW and the heck with the companies.

  • Anonymous 11/14/2008 2:08pm

    It’s pensions.

    Our Social Security pension should be the same.

  • Anonymous 11/14/2008 2:34pm

    I think this bill should pass and as soon as possible. I’ve been out of a job for about a year now and the unemployment rate is just going up & up in my area. We need this passed now.

  • Anonymous 11/14/2008 7:43pm

    Canadians won’t finance US pensions, they have enough problems with teachers and hockey. They are going to have to sell CBC because it costs 1.1 billion a year.

    Social Security pensions should raised and there should be a program if you don’t have a job.

  • Anonymous 11/15/2008 5:18am

    We the unemployed are expendable surplus. Bush frivuously robbed my 401K, vindictively made me unemployed, while he and his corrupt cabinet help each other carry there checkbooks around. He and the rest of his executive branch crooks could care less about americans stuggling to provide for there family. Bush looks more and more like a mule starring at a new gate when asked questions requiring thought. Do you know what you call Bush in a tree with a bunch of monkeys? A branch manager. Anymore, listening to the brain dead idot talk makes me weak! He needs to hit the bricks soon. Is Cheney in a closet somewhere still playing with his Bush yes sir puppet!

  • Comm_reply
    Anonymous 11/17/2008 6:52am

    I so much agree with you. I have been unemployed now for over a year. It makes me consistenly sick regarding Wall Streets bailout, but yet jackass can’t seem to pass this measley bill to assist US Citizens. I prefer Jackass to Mule, but the way. Hm I wonder what the bailout money would have looked like to us if all US Citizen received those funds, rather than Wall Street. Gee maybe instead of worrying about how we are going to food on the table or paying rent, let alone bills, we could actually stage something to get rid of our corrupt government. Or actually assist us economically in an incredible way. The stimulus tax dollars was joke. Gee throw us a bone and we can all be grateful and quiet. Anybody with me on that?

    We the unemployed are expendable surplus. Bush frivuously robbed my 401K, vindictively made me unemployed, while he and his corrupt cabinet help each other carry there checkbooks around. He and the rest of his executive branch crooks could care less about americans stuggling to provide for there family. Bush looks more and more like a mule starring at a new gate when asked questions requiring thought. Do you know what you call Bush in a tree with a bunch of monkeys? A branch manager. Anymore, listening to the brain dead idot talk makes me weak! He needs to hit the bricks soon. Is Cheney in a closet somewhere still playing with his Bush yes sir puppet

  • Anonymous 11/15/2008 4:27pm

    It is OUTRAGEOUS that the criminal corporations are given welfare for their thievery and the exporting of jobs out of this country, while the victims of their nefarious operations – the unemployed of this nation – are hung out to dry. And what do these greedy corporations want? They want even more taxpayer dollars, this time for the auto industry. Does the Senate not get it? We need an unemployment extension before we need anything else. We, the long-term unemployed are BROKE, our savings have been eaten up in an attempt to survive. We can’t afford food, shelter or medical care, much less a house which we never purchased because it was never within reach. The unemployment rate in my state was last clocked at 6.5%. That figure doesn’t count those of us who have already fallen off the rolls. So double it, at least, and you’ve got 13% unemployment. The callousness of the privileged class and their heartless, soulless backers is beyond belief, and is a national disgrace. You Senators who don’t support the people of this country make Ebenezer Scrooge look like a saint. Sure, we’re waiting for Obama in January, but for those of us who can’t wait that long for rescue, be sure to hand us a quarter when you see us begging on the streets.

  • Anonymous 11/16/2008 8:55am

    The Republicans who were fired by the people and lost there reelection races will go out of there way to obstruct the efforts by Democrates to help the unemployed as part of a stimulus plan. Why would they want to cooperate, there is no financial gain for them in all this. I hope they all wake up in the morning and find a quarter in their hand and there but hole is red. Phucq you to…

  • Anonymous 11/16/2008 11:14am

    The Unemployment Extension should be passed, unencumbered by additional legislation that will take precious time away from this vitally imprtant issue. The long-term unemployed (like myself) are being buried in bills and obligations while congress dawdles. We did not ask to be unemployed. The vast majority of us would much rather be working.

  • Anonymous 11/16/2008 5:25pm

    its gotten bad for me and tryin to find work,over qualified for jobs that are available its like the companys wont hire me cause they know once my line of work is available i will be gone then they waist training on me. im praying to god congress will pass this, buy me a lil more time , my bills are piling up i dont know if i will ever get back on top,,i sure did love my job i love to work, the unemployment checks arnt that much hard to live off of, these are some sad days i tell ya , so george w bush i doubt u will read this but please pass it

  • Anonymous 11/16/2008 5:56pm

    i am a single dad trying to help my 19 year old daughter to go to college and im unemployed for quite a while now and im really strugling to keep my head above water and without this unemployment extenion i will sink and drown for sure please pass this bill all alone if u have to !!!! thank you loren butler

  • Anonymous 11/17/2008 5:34am

    I was laid off 9 month ago after 18 years in the automotive industry and have not been able to find any kind of work. It is very hard to try and stay positive. I have applied for many jobs trying to find work even at entry level pay scales, but am always overlooked. I know I am way over qualified for announcements and that employers won’t consider me in fear I will leave as soon as I find something better or in this case above poverty. The jobs are few and the number of job seekers is many. I took a State test recently for 2 vacancys and there had to be over 600 applicants. Everyone I spoke to was suffering and very concerned about providing for their children. Its not right. Unemployment is not living the american dream, it helps and at the same time it is very demorilizing. I hope an extension of benefits happens this week and Bush signs it. If they do nothing they will put over 1 million job seekers and their families in the homeless catagory. I would like them to tell my children why they are dirty, cold, hungry, and in need of proper shelter. Im very thankful that I have my spirtuality. I hope Congress will do the right thing and help those who are victums of the greed and deciet in Washington!

  • Anonymous 11/17/2008 7:03am
    Link Reply
    + -1

    Don’t drop kick me bro!!

  • Anonymous 11/17/2008 7:38pm

    Like many of the others I also have been out of work since January 2008, submitted and interviewing for 100’s of jobs, I have signed up with the Department of Human Services but as a single mother living at home with no children, in Michigan apparently that is a crime. It seems that I have to have kids at home under 18 to get any help. My paperwork can never be correct. Employed , unemployed, off the rolls,
    no matter what even from the state I can’t get help for housing or electric bills, and medical, don’t get me started there. The people that finished their 13 week extension in October have not had any money for over a month now. I have had to borrow money to just keep me going. I have no savings. My daughter has been working and paying my bills and that is not fair to her. I hope they do pass the extension. As it is if they pass it, and the president signs it, then we have to wait for Unemployment letters in the mail, we won’t get anything until probably around the 2nd week in December if we are lucky. If they do not pass the extension in this Lame Duck session, it won’t happen until after the first of the year. A lot of us will be homeless and I fear more may be worse. Congress please do it now….

  • Anonymous 11/18/2008 4:32am

    Was this bailout bill written and approved by our Senators and Congressional representatives? Would a good lawyer know what this language mandates and requires? How come then, we now are having all are questions answered during are first claim? Who is circumventing and misrepresenting the intent of the language! It is “Duck & Cover”, not Lame – Duck… Asses!!! Pass the extension benefits for americans unable to find work and still unemployed by this Bushtricked administration. Dumb looks are free…Answeres requiring thought are a $1.00…Correct answeres are $5.00. O.K. dudes everybody out of the pool! Excuse me, excuse me, can you reach this for me!!! Put me in coach! Anybody else getting mentally discusted.

  • Anonymous 11/18/2008 5:15am

    I do not know enough about the auto bail out to form an opinion But I do know the STIMULUS PACKAGE IS needed now.I am a SR. on S.S. I worked over 40 yrs and paid into to it .I have children struggling with bills I help them as they have young children They need this extra money for the holidays. Young children DO NOT UNDERSTAND WHY THEY DO NOT RECIEVE GIFTS. I Believe people who recieve the STIMULUS WILL SPEND THE MONIES .THIS IS WHAT IS NEEDED TO stimulate the economy.From what I read this is very important STIMULATE THE ECONOMY,I promise I will spend any share I recieve.

  • Anonymous 11/18/2008 9:01am

    B = Bankrupted
    U = Unemployed
    S = Stocks Robbed
    H = Hopeless

  • whatsurname 11/18/2008 11:20am

    This bill needs passed ASAP. People are hurting everywhere.

  • Anonymous 11/19/2008 4:29am

    does anyone in the media report on how the unemployed are surviving with no extensions on unemployment, take a camera crew, you’ll find plenty of coverage. I am hoping the president elect will finally help, we have no other prayer. God help us.

  • Anonymous 12/01/2008 10:27pm

    Not only do they need to extend unemployment, they need to raise the amount per week. Eventhough we may have several thousands of dollars in our unemployment accounts we can hardly keep our head above water with the minimum wage checks we receive although we were making much more. They should allow us to at least work temporary jobs and also collect unemployment up to the weekly amounts we were making before unemployment so we don’t loose our homes to foreclosure or have to empty our already dwendling 401(k)s.

    WHERE IS OUR BAIL OUT??? I did not receive a big bonus before I was laid off…OR MAYBE IT IS JUST ME!!!!

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