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On Tuesday afternoon, Democrats called on the Senate to pass the Unemployment Insurance Stabilization Act under the expedited unanimous consent procedure. As expected, Sen. Scott Brown [R, MA], acting on behalf of all Republicans, objected and will force a full-fledged debate on the issue that will likely last several weeks and be rolled together with unrelated tax issues. Federal unemployment benefits expire today for millions of long-term unemployed workers.

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Unemployment Benefits Expire; What Will Congress Do?

November 29, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

Federal unemployment insurance, which provides a lifeline for millions of long-term unemployed workers, expires today, and from here on out it's going to be harder than ever for the Democrats in Congress to pass another extension.

The Republicans have officially begun chipping away at the Democrats' majority in the Senate. Republican Mark Kirk was sworn in Monday, taking over for Democrat Roland Burris as the junior Senator from Illinois and knocking the Democrats' Senate majority down to 58. Kirk has made his opposition to the Democrats' plans for extending unemployment benefits clear, saying on Fox recently that he would vote against any extension that is not offset by new revenue.

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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:

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.

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Midweek Unemployment Extension Update

November 17, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

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:

H.R. 6419 - Emergency Unemployment Compensation Continuation Act

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.

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Congress comes back to work today for the first time since the midterms for what is known as a "lame duck" session, a post-election work period with defeated incumbents still in office, but unaccountable, and newly-elected members waiting in the wings. Lame duck sessions have historically been relatively unproductive, but there is a lot that could happen this time and there's a certain unpredictability to lame duck sessions that make it extra important that we pay close attention. Here's a quick look at what Congress might take up in the lame duck.

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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.

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Dems Lowering Expectations for the Lame Duck Session

November 8, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

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.

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Unemployed Get Organized for a Lame-Duck Fight

October 19, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

The last time Congress tried to extend unemployment insurance it took them 52 days to overcome Republican opposition and pass a bill, causing a six-week lapse in payments for millions of long-term unemployed The time before that it took 28 day and caused a ten-day lapse in payments. Before that, Congress spent 43 days on a bill to add extra weeks, leaving millions of long-term unemployed without a lifeline for more than a month.

When Congress comes back after the midterms, they'll only have a few days to extend federal unemployment insurance to the 8 million or so people who rely on it for paying their bills and feeding their families. This time, the unemployed are getting out ahead with a major campaign to push Congress for an extension well in advance.

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The Week Ahead

September 20, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

I know a lot of you out there are waiting on the Senate to take up legislation extending unemployment insurance to 99ers and other exhaustees, but it looks like this week will instead be used to hold a couple politically-charged votes on a bill that Majority Leader Harry Reid [D, NV] doesn't even plan on finishing until after the November midterms. "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" and the immigration-related DREAM Act are scheduled for debate and votes this week as amendments to the 2011 Defense AUthorization Act, which Reid said on Thursday most likely won't be completed until the lame-duck session.

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A Bill for the 99ers (and Other Exhaustees)

August 5, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

As announced last night on the Ed Schultz show, Sen. Debbie Ann Stabenow [D, MI] has introduced legislation that would provide additional weeks of unemployment benefits payments for people who have reached the end of what is currently available to them in their state. The bill, which she's calling S. 3706 - the Americans Want to Work Act, would also extend and strengthen tax credits for employers that hire people who have been out of work for some time.

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Holding members of Congress accountable is hard when you can't remember how they voted, so at OpenCongress we put together a scorecard to track how each and every senator voted on the contentious issue of extending unemployment benefits over the last two years. After crunching the numbers, we discovered a few things we expected (Democrats really, really wanted to extend unemployment benefits), a few we didn't (Republicans were surprisingly diverse in their votes), a few head scratchers (Missouri's senators were the least likely to show up to vote despite having a 9.1% unemployment rate) and at least one irrefutable truth (Ben Nelson has a whacked-out definition of "fiscal responsibility").

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Sen. Chuck Schumer [D, NY] told a local NY news station last week that he is working on a bill to extended unemployment insurance benefits for individuals who have exhausted all 99 weeks of the federal benefits that are currently available to them. But he didn't say anything about when it would be introduced or what it would look like. Any senator can introduce any bill he or she likes. Here are a few things to look for when Schumer introduced his bill to tell whether it is a viable proposal that may become law, or jut another bill dropped in the hopper and destined to die in committee.

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As you all probably know by now, President Obama has officially signed the unemployment extension bill into law, sending it the state unemployment offices for them to begin implementing. The bill extends unemployment insurance benefits for people who have been jobless for more than 6 months until November 30th. It will also pay benefits back retroactively for the more than 2.5 million people who have had their payments cut off since Congress let extended unemployment benefits expire on June 2nd.

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Congress Links

July 22, 2010 - by Moshe Bildner

Congress passes a major financial regulations overhaul and extends unemployment insurance for a fourth time; BP increased its lobbying spending to $1.7 million, and Republicans launch a Tea Party Caucus. All this and more in today's Congress Links.

On the major bill to extend unemployement benefits, H.R. 4213, here are some resources to keep you up-to-date: the most-recent votes available to us, latest news coverage, latest blog coverage, latest user comments, most-helpful user comments, wiki summary... and let us know your questions :: writeus at opencongress d0t org.

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Organizing Around Unemployment Online

July 21, 2010 - by Hilary Worden

Yesterday, friend-of-OpenCongress Micah Sifry penned an interesting & thoughtful piece on his blog on TechPresident: "How the Internet Organizes the Unemployed".

We're grateful the article prominently mentions OpenCongress -- more importantly, the organic community of concerned & engaged people that has emerged around the unemployment extensions bill (and our Benefit Wiki project). Click through for summaries and a handy list of links to all the free resources OpenCongress offers about the bill.

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