The millions of unemployed workers hoping for relief via their elected representatives in Washington saw another cloture vote (necessary to stop debate on a measure in the Senate) come and go without the necessary 60 votes that would allow the bill containing the unemployment benefits extension provision to be presented for a final vote of enactment. Democrats worked into Wednesday evening to pare down the bill in hopes of luring a few Republicans to their side of the argument but to no avail. In the end, according to the New York Times, the Republicans presented a united front again Thursday, much as they have in many cases since President Obama took office, voting against cloture to the last senator. One Democrat and one Republican abstained, and one Democrat, Ben Nelson, crossed the aisle, keeping the bill in filibuster.
The final vote, 57 – 41, reflected a gain of one vote in a week where Democrats cut and dropped and sliced to win bipartisan support. Senator Max Baucus, sponsor of the current version of the bill, said that about $100 billion had been taken away the original measure.
For Republicans, it still wasn’t enough.
Much of the Republican aversion to the bill, they have claimed, was that the unemployment benefits extension provision ($35.5 billion) was unpaid for, that there would be an increase in overall taxes, and that the bill would increase the national debt. Democrats countered their argument this week by agreeing to pay for some of the programs in the American Jobs and Tax Loopholes Act of 2010 with some of the unused and unallocated monies from the economic stimulus package and finding ways to pay for the unemployment extensions.
The problem now seems to be the raise in taxes. The taxes are all levied in the business sector.
A Republican version of the bill, sponsored by John Thune, provides for everything the Democrats have incorporated in their bill, actually decreases the deficit, and pays for everything as well. However, Thune’s version does not mention business taxes at all.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said immediately after the failed cloture vote, “The only thing Republicans have opposed in this debate are job killing taxes and adding to the national debt.” He suggested a one-month unemployment extension, and, anticipating that it would not be accepted, said, “Their commitment to deficit spending trumps their desire to help the unemployed.”
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), whose home state of Nevada has the highest unemployment rate in the nation (14%), said, “You’ll hear a lot of excuses. The bottom line is the minority just said no.”
Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL) blasted the Republicans, stating that millions of people, including thousands in his home state of Illinois, were going to lose their homes and vehicles because of Republican lip service to the national debt. He noted that one of the loopholes the Democrats version of the bill addressed and the Republicans version left completely out, allowed companies to relocate assets overseas. He scoffed at Republican posturing about taking stimulus money intended for the creation of jobs to be used to pay for unemployment benefits to people who were themselves jobless, which, to him, made little sense.
Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), who has watched jobs flee the state of Michigan and has to contend with an unemployment rate of 13.6% (over 660,000 unemployed), stated, “We don’t need to be lectured by the people who created the deficits about getting out of the deficit hole.”
While Democrats blame the Republicans for their stonewalling and Republicans accuse Democrats of simply wanting to place the burden of debt on future generations, and while both parties accuse each other of not caring about the nation’s unemployed, those that would benefit most from the 2010 Unemployment Extension Bill can only wonder when — or even if — the senate will ever get out of filibuster. Still, mathematically, if the abstaining Democrat, Robert Byrd of West Virginia, had voted for cloture, the vote would have failed to carry the measure. The same can be said if Lisa Murkowski of Arkansas, the lone abstaining Republican, had broken ranks with her party.
In the meantime, the ranks of the jobless without unemployment benefits grows on a weekly basis. For many, that equates to no household income at all. The Unemployment Extension Bill was meant to address the unemployed retroactively to the beginning of June, covering those eligible until November. The Republican alternative plan provides for a one-month unemployment benefits extension.
The U. S. Department of Labor estimates that 1.2 million people will fall from the unemployment rolls by the first week of July if the Senate fails to pass extension legislation.
All dissenting votes Thursday were Republican, except one (Ben Nelson of Nebraska). Joe Lieberman (I-CT), who voted against the measure last Thursday, voted in favor of cloture on the revised version.