Job losses in the recession peaked almost exactly two years ago, and the situation has barely improved since. Current law allows unemployed workers to receive a maximum of two years of unemployment insurance benefits, so millions of people who lost their jobs in the recession are getting cut off from government support right now with little chance of finding work. These folks are often referred to as "99ers," 99 being the maximum number of benefit weeks. Despite the situation, House Republicans yesterday used an arcane rule to block an amendment that would have provided 14 more weeks of benefits for thRead Full Article
Every week, 35,000 unemployed Americans reach the end of their insurance benefits without finding new jobs and join the ranks of a growing group of recession victims known as the "99ers." According to the Congressional Budget Office, there are at least 1.4 million 99ers right now, and with the unemployment rate expected to stay high for several years, it's statistically certain that that number will increase dramatically in the coming months.
Given the facts of the situation, some congressional Democrats are pushing legislation to extend the unemployment insurance lifeline to help relieve the hardship these people are facing. On Wednesday, Rep. Barbara Lee [D, CA-9] reintroduced a bill in the new Congress that would add 14 weeks to the current federal unemployment insurance system and provide those benefits retroactively for people who have already exhausted all their benefits. Lee introduced her bill, the Emergency Unemployment Compensation Expansion Act, with 47 co-sponsors -- all Democrats -- and according to rumors she is already up to 60.Read Full Article
The American 99ers Union, a coalition of groups advocating for people who have been unemployed for more than 99 weeks, have announced that Rep. Barbara Lee [D, CA-9] will reintroduce her bill from the previous session of Congress to extend the total length of time a person can collect unemployment insurance by 14 weeks and provide the new benefits retroactively to people who have already exhausted all of their benefits. Now, the mere introduction of a bill is not in itself a newsworthy event, especially when it's being introduced by a liberal Democrat in a conservative, Republican-controlled chamber. But the 99ers Unions is suggesting that the new bill will be paid for, and, depending on the details, that could be enough to make it at least within the realm of possibility that it could see action this session.Read Full Article
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.Read Full Article
The Democrats' epic cave-in on the Bush tax cuts is now complete. Late Thursday night, by a vote of 277-148, the House of Representatives approved a deal brokered by President Obama and congressional Republicans to extend, for two years, the Bush tax cuts for all income levels in exchange for a one-year extension of the filing deadline for federal unemployment insurance. Because the version passed by the House is identical to the bill passed by the Senate earlier this week, it will be sent to Obama immediately and is expected to be signed into law later today.Read Full Article
I've been trying to make the point that the 99er problem -- people exhausting all unemployment benefits without finding a job -- is about to get much worse because we're approaching 99 weeks from the brunt of the recession unemployment spike. Congress is not planning to add more weeks of unemployment benefits and the Federal Reserve is projecting the unemployment rate to stay pretty much where it is for the next year. Putting it all together, this means that for the foreseeable future, there will no jobs and no government support for the millions of 99ers.Read Full Article
If congressional leaders have their way, this will be the final week of the 111th Congress. President Obama and most Republicans are hoping the Democrats will end their four years in the majority by passing a full extension of the Bush tax cuts for all income levels. To that end, the Senate is set to take a big cloture vote this afternoon on an amendment to the House's bill to allow the tax cuts to expire for income over $200,000 (H.R. 4853) that would change the bill to extend all the tax cuts, lower the estate tax, extend unemployment benefits, and lots more. If today's vote passes, as is expected, the bill will be sent back to the House by Tuesday evening for follow-up action. That's where things become less clear.Read Full Article
Hot on the heels of Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee's [D, TX-18] statement Thursday on the House floor that an extension of unemployment insurance for 99ers should be added to Obama's tax deal, the Congressional Black Caucus has announced that adding 99ers relief is essential for winning the support of their members. "The CBC has reached a consensus on three areas that we believe we can unite behind, Rep. Bobby Scott [D, VA-3] said at a press conference on Friday. "First, we support the 13-month extension of unemployment insurance benefits, but we all agree that we also ought to extend benefits for the so called 99ers -- those who are exhausting the benefits they have."Read Full Article
Finally, a sign that at least someone in the crew of House Democrats leading the revolt against Obama's tax deal with the Republicans is fighting to add additional weeks of unemployment benefits. In a floor speech yesterday calling for "a reasoned conversation," Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee [D, TX-18] argued that a middle-income tax relief package should include a new tier of unemployment insurance benefits for those who have exhausted all available benefits. Jackson-Lee is among the 53 Democrats who signed a letter expressing opposition to the Obama tax deal.Read Full Article
Every Monday morning when Congress is in session I post the schedules for the week ahead in the Senate and the House, and I'll do that below with one big caveat: the real action in Congress this week while be the off-the-floor, behind-the-scenes wrangling on extending the Bush tax cuts. Democrats and Republicans are closing in on a deal to extend, temporarily, the Bush tax cuts for all income levels.Read Full Article
The Federal Reserve has lowered the expectations for economic growth and is not expecting any significant change in the unemployment rate for the next couple of years:
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Unemployment is set to remain higher for longer than previously thought, according to new projections from the Federal Reserve that would mean more than 10 million Americans remain jobless through the 2012 elections - even as a separate report shows corporate profits reaching their highest levels ever.
UPDATE 2: The bill failed, 258-154 (290 votes were needed under the rule). The Democrats can bring this up again for a vote under regular order (requiring only a simple majority for passage), but it will be subject to amendments and a Republican motion to recommit.
UPDATE: House Democrats have put a three-month unemployment extension on the calendar for a vote today (Thursday). Read up on the bill, add a comment, and place your vote here:
The bill is being considered under the expedited "suspension of the rules" process, which does not allow for amendments or motions to recommit that could trip up the bill's passage. However, it requires a 2/3rds supermajority, so the Democrats will need all their members plus 35 Republicans to vote in favor. The last time they tried to extend unemployment under suspension of the rules, they failed, 261-155. With the bill not having a revenue offset, passage is unlikely. But we'll see…. Check back for updates.Read Full Article
There are plenty of issues standing in the way of getting the unemployment extension done in the lame duck -- lack of time, concerns over the deficit, political insecurity after the midterms, etc. Here's one we can try to nip in the bud.Read Full Article
Before the elections, congressional Democrats were talking about using the upcoming lame duck session for passing on a renewable energy standard bill, creating a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants that complete high school or serve in the military, setting tariffs for countries that manipulate their currency, repealing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" and much more. But in the wake of their midterm "shellacking," they are quickly scaling back their ambitions. Inside sources who spoke with The Hill are saying not to expect anything beyond a continuing resolution to keep the government running until the end of the year and a debate on the expiring Bush tax cuts.Read Full Article
This afternoon Sen. Debbie Ann Stabenow [D, MI] called for the Senate to pass, under unanimous consent, the "Americans Want to Work Act." The bill would add a fifth tier of unemployment insurance benefits in states with unemployment rates above 7.5%. The fifth tier would give an additional 20 weeks of benefits to unemployed people who have exhausted all of their available unemployment insurance benefits and have not yet found a job.Read Full Article