Democrats have shocked the political world by defeating Republican obstruction and moving on to a final vote on extending unemployment benefits by a margin of 60-37.
All Democrats voted for the bill, and were joined by Republicans co-sponsor of the bill Dean Heller, Susan Collins, Kelly Ayotte, Rob Portman, Ben Coats, and Lisa Murkowski. These 6 Republicans deserve praise for doing what is right for their constituents who are out there looking every single day, but are struggling to find a job.
Before the vote, Majority Leader Harry Reid said that, “It’s true that the rich are getting richer, and everyone else is getting squeezed.” Reid said that among the unemployed who need an unemployment extension are 20,000 veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. Reid said, “For many Americans these benefits make the difference between being able to live a decent life and becoming homeless.”
The last time emergency jobless benefits were allowed to expire was in November 2008. At the time, benefits were extended for three months by a voice vote in the Senate. Republicans in both the House and Senate supported an extension under President Bush that was not paid for, but they are objecting to the same extension under President Obama, and demanding that it be paid for.
Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) offered on the Senate floor to extend unemployment benefits if the Obamacare individual mandate was delayed for a year. He claimed that they would “pay” for the unemployment benefits extension by killing Obamacare. The problem is that the ACA doesn’t add anything to the deficit.
Reid responded by saying, “this is a guise to obstruct, and I object with as much fervor as I can.” McConnell accused Reid of exploiting the struggles of the poor, and asked, “How many of these have been doing well during the Obama economy.”
During the debate, Sen. Chuck Schumer said that he saw what was going on here. He said that Republicans were putting up impossible hurdles to block the vote on the unemployment benefits extension.
In the end it didn’t matter as Harry Reid and the Democrats mustered enough Republican support to overcome McConnell’s obstruction. The Senate did the right thing today. If this coalition holds, the Senate will pass a 3 month extension of unemployment benefits.
Your move, John Boehner.