Cloture Motionby Senator Patty Murray
Posted on 2014-01-07
MURRAY. Madam President, this new year represents an opportunity
for us to refocus and plan for our year ahead. Unfortunately, for
millions of Americans their focus will be on trying to stay afloat over
the next year while they search for work. All of us here know there is
no more important issue for middle-class families across America right
now than jobs and the economy. This is what they want their elected
officials to be focused on, and it is exactly what I think we ought to
be working on every day.
By reaching a bipartisan agreement last month, we did a number of things to work toward that goal. First of all and importantly, we showed the American people that Members of Congress can work together, that we can listen to each other, and that we can get into a room and talk frankly without trying to hurt each other politically. Second, by breaking through that partisanship, we finally ended that seemingly never-ending cycle of lurching from crisis to crisis. Third, we showed that ``compromise'' isn't a dirty word and that there is a big coalition that is ready to make some sacrifices politically to get things done. Finally and importantly, for our efforts to continue to grow our economy, we gave American families and businesses the certainty they need to grow.
Of course, there is much more to do. As much as we are heartened by the headlines that predict a strong economy this year, we understand just how fragile our recovery still is, with millions of Americans still out of work.
Now is the time to redouble our efforts, not shrink from the challenges we face, because the truth is that all the economic predictions in the world mean nothing if we don't continue to support policies that help our middle class. That work absolutely starts with extending unemployment benefits for the millions of Americans who have been losing their benefits since December 28.
Because unemployment assistance goes right back into the economies of communities large and small, nonpartisan economists have found it is one of the most effective ways to build a recovery that lasts. Those same economists have said that failure to continue these benefits will cost us over 200,000 jobs. And renewing these benefits is simply the right thing to do at a time when millions of American families continue to teeter on the brink in States where unemployment remains stubbornly high.
I have come to the Senate floor today with the hope that we can continue with the bipartisan momentum we saw with today's cloture vote and that we have seen over the last few weeks and take a final vote to provide a lifeline for millions of Americans. This should be an easy issue. It would be simply wrong to cut off the support while our economy continues to struggle and so many workers are really having difficulty finding work. Right now, in fact, there are three unemployed workers for every single job opening. If every opening were filled tomorrow, we would still have more than 7 million American workers across the country without a job to even apply for. More [[Page S44]] than one-third of all unemployed workers have been out of a job for 6 months or longer--above historic averages and higher than in past recoveries.
Millions of Americans are unemployed today not because they do not want to work, not because they do not have valuable skills, but simply because they found themselves in an economy that isn't creating jobs as quickly as needed. These unemployed workers are desperate to get back on the job, and unemployment benefits make all the difference for them and their families while they scour the want ads, pound the pavement, and send out resume after resume.
I have received story after story from workers and families across my home State of Washington about what unemployment benefits have meant to them and what losing them would mean for their future. These men and women can't afford to have the rug pulled out from under them and are now struggling with each day that passes.
One of these stories came from a woman named Carol from Puyallup in my home State. She is a nurse. She was laid off from her job. She decided that in order to make ends meet she would start her own legal nurse consulting business, so she enrolled in classes to help her hone her entrepreneurial skills. While taking those classes, Carol relied on her unemployment benefits to get by. Then, not only were her benefits slashed significantly due to sequestration, but Carol just found out she was one of the 25,000 people in Washington State whose benefits were completely cut off on December 28.
As a leader in the classroom, Carol has spoken to many other soon-to- be business owners who are suffering. In the face of unexpected job loss, they now feel as if they are being punished for deciding to chart a new course in their lives. They are creating work for themselves and potentially others but now have to decide whether they can continue following that dream without the critical support unemployment benefits provide them.
Carol is not alone. I heard from a woman who was laid off from her job at a plant in Keyport, WA, early last year. She told me: Living in Kitsap County, we are geographically isolated, and finding work with so many qualified applicants right now is much more difficult. This year, I have applied for over 200 jobs and in spite of a stellar resume, have only gotten four phone interviews. I have lowered my standards throughout the year and applied for jobs far below my pay grade to no avail . . . my husband and I have had to claim bankruptcy . . . and I truly worry about losing my home and displacing my children.
Madam President, that is what people are facing today.
Finally, there is Traci, a woman from Everett. She is a former executive assistant with 20 years of experience. After taking time off from work to care for her dying mother and a daughter who was suffering from bipolar disorder and drug addiction, Traci found herself without a job. Shortly after her mother passed, Traci fell ill, making it difficult for her to look for work.
While Traci was receiving unemployment benefits, they were barely enough to cover the care her daughter required. Traci told me that she now can't afford food and has lost over 50 pounds. She even asked that I send her a video of the speech I am making right here as she won't be able to tune in today because she had to get rid of her television in the process of finding savings. Like so many others, Traci is searching high and low for that one break, and she told me, ``I just need time for someone to give me a chance.'' For Traci, unemployment benefits are not the solution. A job is what she wants. But they provide her with some critical support while she takes care of her family and tries to find that work.
Those are just a few of the stories I have heard, but there are a lot like them. Millions of people across America, including an almost additional 28,000 in my State, stand to lose the benefits they count on if Congress doesn't act soon. These workers are not looking for a handout. They do not want to be a burden. But they need support while they work to get back on their feet and back on the job.
In this struggling economy, renewing these benefits is truly crucial. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has said that renewing unemployment benefits is one of the most effective policy tools we have to boost the economy and get money in the pockets of consumers. So I am really hopeful the Senate will act quickly, without political games, because failure to do so wouldn't just be devastating for the families who count on this, it would also hurt many small businesses and communities to have the billions of dollars pulled away from consumers who spend it every month on food and rent and clothing.
Last month's budget deal provided us with a glimmer of bipartisan hope coming into this new year. However, we have to continue working together to focus on improving the economy for middle-class Americans. We cannot afford to allow this lifeline to be cut off.
The stories I shared today, like so many others, are heartbreaking, but they also show the fierce determination exhibited by so many who are out of work in the struggle to get back on their feet. They are the stories of people who are applying for work far below their own qualifications, going back to school to earn the skills needed to change careers or waking up every day to scour for jobs in their communities that all too often lack opportunity. I believe it is Congress that needs to match their determination and grit. We took an important first step today, and I know unemployed workers I have heard from are watching. Today's vote is a glimmer of hope for them. We can't let it fade. We need to move on and pass this extension quickly, and the House needs to follow suit.
Madam President, I yield the floor, and I suggest the absence of a quorum.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will call the roll.
The bill clerk proceeded to call the roll.