Thursday, November 20, 2008

Democrats Push For Unemployment Benefits Extension Today

The United States Senate will vote this week -- and very likely today -- on a bill that will extend unemployment insurance benefits by seven weeks for the jobless whose benefits have run out and a total of 13 weeks for those in states with an unemployment rate higher than six percent.

The bipartisan legislation -- cosponsors include Republicans Coleman, Smith, Snowe and Specter -- passed the House in October and will go immediately to President Bush's desk for his signature if passed this week.

"It all comes down to Main Street Americans who want to work, who want to pay their bills, who want to take care of their families; their well-being is tied to the well-being of our economy and our Nation," said Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) in fighting for the bill on the Senate floor Monday. "Unemployment insurance is the mechanism by which Americans looking for jobs but who have lost their jobs can sustain their families, can keep their financial commitments, can afford the tools needed to find a new job."

"Extending unemployment insurance is key to getting the economy going. It injects dollars into the economy and helps people meet their obligations, raise their kids, and do what they need to do in the community. It is one of the most important and immediate ways to stimulate the economy."

The Unemployment Compensation Extension Act of 2008 was authored by Democrats in response to the rapidly climbing unemployment rate, which has grown from 4.8 to 6.5 percent since last year. It passed the House last month by an overwhelming majority, 368 to 28.

It is estimated that more than one million Americans will run out of their current unemployment insurance benefits by the end of 2008.

And Brown did not waste any time when the Senate reconvened on Monday in pushing his Senate colleagues for rapid relief for America's unemployed.

"Does anyone in Congress want more American families to lose their homes?" asked Brown of the Senate chamber this week. "Does anyone in Congress want more American children to go to bed hungry? Does anyone in the House or Senate want more American families to stop paying their heating bills, to delay their credit card payments, to skip out on their health care bills?"

"Assuming the answer to any of these questions is no, then voting to extend unemployment insurance for current job seekers should not be a fight, it should be a formality."

With strong bipartisan support behind it, the only way this bill will fail is if Republicans filibuster which, even for the Grinch-like GOP, seems unlikely as we enter the holiday season.

And President-elect Obama has also thrown his support behind the legislation to help the unemployed, mentioning it in his Saturday radio address, saying "…we cannot afford to delay providing help for the more than one million Americans who will have exhausted their unemployment insurance by the end of this year.”