Emergency Unemployment Compensation Extension Act—Motion to Proceedby Senator Richard J. Durbin
Posted on 2014-01-07
DURBIN. Mr. President, on the side supporting the pending motion,
there is 15 minutes under the unanimous consent agreement and a similar
amount of time on the other side. If all time is used, I would notify
Members our rollcall vote will be about 11 o'clock.
I ask unanimous consent that on our side, supporting the motion, I be allowed 5 minutes, Senator Reed of Rhode Island 5 minutes, and Senator Klobuchar of Minnesota 5 minutes.
[[Page S38]] The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.
Mr. DURBIN. Mr. President, I listened carefully to the Republican leader today. Here is what he said.
If we are going to give 1.3 million Americans unemployment insurance which has now expired, we have to pay for it. Then he suggested how he would pay for it. He would pay for it by attacking ObamaCare. That is no surprise. But the provision he would attack is the individual mandate--the mandate that people buy health insurance. Well, what is the impact of that? The mandate that people have the responsibility to buy health insurance is necessary if we are going to protect Americans from being discriminated against who have preexisting conditions in their families. Follow me now. In order to make sure a parent with a child who has asthma or a child who has diabetes can still buy health insurance, we needed to expand the insurance pool. We expanded the insurance pool by saying to everyone across America: You have the responsibility to buy health insurance.
So what Senator McConnell, on behalf of Senate Republicans, is suggesting is this: If we are going to give 1.3 million Americans unemployment insurance, we have to say to everyone living in America we can no longer keep our promise that health insurance will not discriminate against your family because of a preexisting condition. Wow. What a tradeoff, 1.3 million people get unemployment benefits over 300 million Americans lose the protection of discrimination in their health insurance because of a preexisting condition in their families. That is the Republican logic: Help the unemployed but at the expense of 300 million American families and their health insurance protection.
It is interesting to note that we have had a dramatic increase in people living in the Commonwealth of Kentucky--represented by Senator McConnell--when it comes to the Affordable Care Act. Governor Beshear, a Democrat, is promoting affordable care in Kentucky and has one of the most successful efforts under way across America. Yet every day the Senators from Kentucky both come to the floor and criticize the very program that is so popular in their State.
The second point I want to make is this: All we are asking for this morning is a vote to start the debate on unemployment insurance benefits. We are asking 5 Republicans to join 55 Democrats to let us debate whether we extend unemployment benefits across America. It is that simple. At about 11:00 that vote will take place.
This used to be a bipartisan issue.
The Presiding Officer of New Jersey is the newest Member of the Senate, and I welcome him again.
There was a time when Republican Presidents thought unemployment compensation was a pretty good idea. Why? Because families with breadwinners who are out of work need to feed their children, need to feed themselves. Senator McConnell criticizes this program as a temporary government handout. Let me tell you, if you don't have food on the table, you need a temporary helping hand so you can put food on the table so you are strong enough tomorrow to look for jobs again. That is what it is all about, and they don't get it. They say we should be talking about creating jobs. What about creating some food in the bellies of children? What about paying the utility bill or the rent or keeping the lights on or keeping the place that you live warm enough while you are out looking for a job? That is part of the reality facing people across America. There were 81,867 individuals in my home State of Illinois who lost their benefits between Christmas and New Year. They have written me letters.
Ryan, a 35-year-old man with two children from Antioch, IL, writes to me about how difficult it is for him to keep his family together as he continues day after weary day looking for a job. What I hear from the Republican leader is: Well, isn't it a shame that Ryan doesn't have a job? But we can't let government come in and provide the solution.
Well, historically government has stepped up when the private sector cannot or will not. In this case, we know it is absolutely essential.
What we need to have is five Republicans to at least give us a chance this morning at 11 to move forward on the debate on unemployment insurance. This is basic and it is humane. It used to be bipartisan before the tea party takeover of the Republican Party. I hope there are enough moderates left on the Republican side to join us to make this a bipartisan issue again. Helping people keep their families together, the lights on, the heat in their homes, and food on the table while they are looking for a job is not a government giveaway. For goodness sake, it defines who we are as a nation. If we can't stand and help these people looking for work, then it is a sad commentary on who we are, where we are, and our principles.
Finally, this notion of thrashing out at ObamaCare every time there is an issue coming up on the floor has reached its extreme today, when the Republican leader would eliminate the protection against discrimination for preexisting conditions for 300 million Americans in order to provide unemployment benefits for 1.3 million.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Rhode Island.