Emergency unemployment benefits legislation stalled in the Senate Tuesday, and is unlikely to be considered again before Congress adjourns for a week-long recess. Although there is agreement by Democrats and Republicans to extend the benefits, there is disagreement over how the program should be funded.
Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) spoke about the issue on the Senate floor Tuesday. “First, the Senate should actually be paying for whatever it passes — and not with spending cuts 11 years from now that may never happen,” the Minority Leader said. “It’s also reasonable to expect practical pro-growth job-creation measures, so we can actually help get people back to work.”
McConnell’s remarks referenced a Democratic proposal which would pay for the an extension through November with cuts Republicans claim will not be witnessed until 2024. The Republicans offered a three-month extension which would cost about $12 billion. Part of its cost-saving measures was to end the ability of the unemployed to access jobless aid, and federal disability simultaneously. It had similarities with a recent offer by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), but differed over how spending cuts would affect low-income Americans. “That was never going to have a chance on our side,” Senator Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) told the Washington Post.
Senator Daniel Coats (R-Ind.) described the bill as “a patient in very critical condition,” saying that there is “a faint detection of a pulse.” According to Coats, the ball is now in the Democratic court. Many could argue that is where the ball began. Reid started the legislative session emphasizing the need to pass the extension. “Instead of celebrating the beginning of a new year on January 1, more than a million Americans — including 20,000 veterans and 18,000 Nevadans — were left wondering how they would feed their families and make their mortgage payments while they continue to look for jobs,” Reid said during a speech welcoming the Senate back at the start of the year.
The benefits for the long term unemployed expired on December 28, 2013. The expiration affects over 1.3 million people who rely on the assistance after other federal and state resources have been used. During Tuesday’s press conference, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney made it clear the Administration stood behind Reid. “What the Senate should do and then the House should do is pass an extension of benefits right away,” Carney said. “There is an existing bill, has made some progress in the Senate that would do that immediately without offsets for just a short duration, three months, in the manner that was done under President George W. Bush five times. And we certainly support that.”