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John R.
Democrat RI

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  • Emergency Unemployment Compensation Extension Act—Motion to Proceed

    by Senator Jack Reed

    Posted on 2014-01-07

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    REED. Mr. President, could the Presiding Officer instruct me when I reach the 4-minute mark? The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.



    Mr. REED. Mr. President, I rise with my colleagues to support this motion to bring this legislation to the floor to begin a debate.

    There were 1.3 million Americans who were pushed off an economic cliff on December 28 when their extended unemployment benefits ended. They are searching for work. They have to search for work. They are in a market where there are typically two or three applicants for one job.

    Yesterday I read a story from the Washington Post that talked about the opening of a new dairy plant in Maryland. They were expecting a lot of interest in the 36 jobs: 1,600 applicants. I would wager that many of those applicants never thought in their lives, after being a vice president of sales in a company or a sophisticated manager of the financial aspects of a company, that they would be applying for work in a dairy. Some of them might even be on extended benefits, and that is the only thing keeping them whole. And they are looking for work, 1,600 applicants for 36 jobs.

    This is not unique to Maryland. It is in my home State of Rhode Island. It is in States all across this country, Nevada, Tennessee, Arizona, States with unemployment numbers above the national average of 7 percent. In my case, it is 9 percent. We have to help these families. And as Senator Durbin pointed out, we have done this on a bipartisan basis until very recently.

    This is a smart economic program. This program, according to CBO, will create 200,000 jobs next year if we extend it. Those are 200,000 jobs we are going to give away. And the minority leader was talking about how we have to do more to create jobs around here. Well, if we don't pass this measure, CBO has told us we are going to forfeit 200,000 jobs. So from an economic basis in this country, this is smart. But from a human basis, this helps people who have worked--and the only way you qualify for this program is if you worked and then you are let go through no fault of your own. So we have to do that.

    Colleagues on the other side are talking about: Well, we have to pay for these benefits. This is a selective sort of notion, because, frankly, the last time we extended these benefits in January of 2013, it was not offset and the vote was 89-8. It included tax provisions and other provisions, but we extended these benefits, unpaid for, 89-8. Yet now we have to pay for these benefits.

    What Senator Heller and I have done is said: Listen, we need to help these people now. Let's do a 90-day extension, provide retroactive relief, and help these 1.3 million--and it will grow, because several million more people will lose their benefits this year. Let's do it, and then let's sit down and work on this program.

    But let me also remind my colleagues, we have made significant changes to the unemployment insurance program. In early 2012, we had a conference report between the House and the Senate which made changes in unemployment insurance. We reduced the total time from 99 weeks to 73 weeks. We created the work-sharing [[Page S39]] program, a very innovative program which allows people to collect for part of the week but also stay employed the rest of the week. It is a program which has helped companies all across the country, small companies in particular. We have given States more flexibility on job training. We have given States more flexibility in oversight of their programs. We have made changes. We are willing to listen to thoughtful proposals again. But we can't do it on the backs of 1.3 million Americans who have lost the only benefit they have.

    If we really want to talk about job training, if we want to talk about cooperation, why haven't we been able to reauthorize the Workforce Investment Act since 1998? We have not made the changes in workforce training that affect this whole country--not just the unemployed but those young people who are trying to move out of high school and junior college into the workforce. We haven't done it. Why? Well, from 1998 until 2007, we had a Republican Congress. Since 2007, we have been struggling very mightily with an economic crisis. And we have made progress.

    But if we want to start cooperating, let's bring the Workforce Investment Act to the floor. It has passed the committee on a bipartisan basis. Let's bring it to the floor. Let's help people.

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