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Senate Advances Emergency Jobless Benefits To Debate

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Unread 01.07.14, 09:28 AM
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Senate Advances Emergency Jobless Benefits To Debate

01.07.14 08:39 AM

WASHINGTON (UPI) — The U.S. Senate voted 60-37 Tuesday to allow debate on a bill that would extend emergency unemployment insurance benefits for another three months.

Democrats picked up the 60 votes necessary on the bill co-sponsored by Senators Dean Heller (R-Nev.) and Jack Reed (D-R.I.) to debate. Democrats needed at least five Republicans to vote yes to advance the bill that would cost about $6.4 billion.

Nevada and Rhode Island are tied with the Nation’s highest unemployment rate, 9 percent, the Labor Department said last week.

“These benefits make difference to live a decent life … or going hungry and becoming homeless,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said during floor debate.

When the program expired at the end of December, 1.3 million Americans were without benefits; that number will grow if nothing is done.

Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky accused the Democrats of using the expiration of emergency unemployment benefits at the end of 2013 for political purposes, and used his time to advocate the delay of the individual mandate in the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

“For the president to try to blame his opponents for the suffering takes a pretty good amount of nerve,” McConnell said. “It takes national amnesia to reach those conclusions — these are same folks gave us stimulus, tax increases and Obamacare in name of helping the little guy.”

He said Republicans wanted to extend the emergency unemployment benefits, but only by offsetting their cost through delaying the individual mandate — something Democrats said would mean families of children with pre-existing conditions would be discriminated against by insurance companies.

Democrats speaking before the cloture vote noted that extending emergency unemployment insurance benefits has always been a bipartisan effort and never had offset strings attached. McConnell was the only Republican who spoke.

“The bottom line is very simple: People want to work,” Senator Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said. “People who have lost their jobs are knocking on doors every day. … They’re desperate for work.”

Schumer said it was “balderdash” for some Republicans to suggest that long-term unemployment encouraged recipients not to work.

The Senate originally scheduled a vote for Monday, but delayed it after at least 17 Senators were absent because of the frigid weather gripping the country.

Even if the Senate approves the extension, it will be a non-starter in the Republican-led House, Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has said.

House Republicans will insist the bill must be paid for, Boehner has said.



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