Progressive Caucus: Opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnershipby Representative David N. Cicilline
Posted on 2014-01-15
CICILLINE. I thank the gentleman for yielding and thank you for
organizing this Special Order hour and for the power of your voice on
this very important issue and for the work that you have done in your
early days here in Congress.
I thank your constituents for sending you here to fight, particularly to fight on behalf of the middle class and for the families who are really struggling in this still-recovering economy.
I want to just spend a few moments tonight to speak about the expired unemployment insurance issue and the unwillingness of our friends on the other side of the aisle to address this issue, and the notion that we are going to leave tomorrow and go back home for a week, take another recess, without addressing this urgent issue which is impacting my State, the State of Rhode Island, but impacting Americans all across this country.
What is so frustrating about the refusal to extend emergency unemployment benefits is that, first, it puts families in a very, very difficult position. These are folks who are looking for work, who are struggling to make ends meet as they navigate a difficult job market, who have relied on unemployment compensation, modest assistance to help put food on the table, to pay their bills, to keep a roof over their head, and have now seen their unemployment insurance cut off.
This is impacting 1.5 million Americans, so far, and it will impact about 72,000 additional Americans every single week. 72,000 Americans will lose their unemployment insurance, according to analysis by the Ways and Means Committee.
Tens of thousands of Americans living on the edge, relying on unemployment insurance to help get them through as they actively look for work, and they are being cut off.
It is not only painful for the families, an incredible hardship and really devastating; it is also bad public policy. It hurts our economy because, as you know, Congressman Pocan, folks who are receiving unemployment insurance take that money and they inject it back into the economy. They buy goods that they need to survive--food, groceries, pay expenses, but they inject that back into the economy.
In fact, the Congressional Budget Office estimates that our failure to extend unemployment insurance will cost the economy 200,000 jobs. The Economic Policy Institute predicts that the failure to extend unemployment benefits will cost 300,000 jobs.
So this is not only devastating to families and really imposing terrible [[Page H465]] hardships, but it is also bad public policy. It is costing us jobs.
It was reported today that 2 million children in America were living in families who were relying on long-term unemployment benefits, Federal unemployment benefits, in 2012--2 million children. So this has a real impact.
In my home State, there are 4,900 Rhode Islanders who have lost their unemployment benefits, put out in the cold because Congress failed to act.
To just give you some examples, I had the opportunity to speak with constituents who either wrote to me or called me or I met with in person.
I just want to give you examples because we have heard a lot of conversation on the other side about who these folks are who are looking for work, and some of it has been unfair in describing who these individuals are. So I want my colleagues on the other side of the aisle to understand who we are talking about here.
One is a constituent of mine, Erica, from North Providence. She is a graphic designer. She has been looking for work, has been laid off and looking for work, and it has been very difficult for her to find work.
She wrote to me, and we met afterwards, and she said: 1 month of help can be the difference between someone getting a job and getting back on their feet or falling further into debt and hopelessness.
So she talked about how unemployment has helped her continue her job search, and whether or not it was going to be that and, hopefully, landing a job, or whether it was going to be falling further behind into greater debt and a greater sense of hopelessness.
I met with a constituent of mine, Rhonda, from Rumford, Rhode Island. She is 54 years old. She worked her whole life, sometimes two or three jobs at the same time, just to make ends meet and to take care of herself and her family. She has two children. She has lost her unemployment benefits and is worried about how she is going to take care of her family.
I spoke just the day before yesterday with Margaret, mother of four, suffering from Parkinson's Disease, who has worked her whole life. She said: I have never asked for help from anybody, but this is the time I need it--and she lost her unemployment.
So these are examples of individuals, and I know, Congressman, you have examples in your own district. All of our colleagues do.
We saw today repeated efforts--we tried everything, unanimous consent consideration, previous question, we tried every tactical move we could to force our friends on the other side of the aisle to bring an extension of unemployment benefits to the House floor for a vote, and they blocked us every single time.
They are not hurting the Democrats. They are hurting the American people.
I am very proud, on the Senate side, my senior Senator, Senator Jack Reed, has led the fight in the Senate, relentlessly making the case of what this impact is for individuals, for families and for our economy.
It is difficult to understand how, seeing the hardship that this expiration of unemployment benefits causes to families, and what it will mean to people who literally are wondering, Am I going to get to stay in my apartment? Am I going to be able to pay my mortgage? Am I going to be able to put food on the table? These are people who have exhausted their State benefits, and as a condition of these benefits, they have to continue to actively look for work. So this notion that they would rather get this modest check than have a job is absurd.
Every single person I have met with says, I want a job. I want the dignity that comes from having work and being able to support myself and my family.
For every job that exists, there are two or three people for that job, so we have got to do more to create jobs.
When I hear my friends on the other side of the aisle say we need jobs bills, we have jobs bills. Bring them to the floor for a vote.
Invest in science and research. Invest in rebuilding our country. Invest in the Make It In America agenda to help support the rebirth of American manufacturing.
There are jobs that we can bring to the floor. We ought to do that. At the same time, we ought to protect people who are particularly hard hit.
This is part of the American tradition. You know, on the one hand, we have this self-determination and this strong American individualism. We also have a collective sense of taking care of each other and looking after each other. That is what the extension of unemployment benefits means.
I thank you for continuing to raise this issue, for giving us an opportunity to make the case to the American people and, hopefully, to our colleagues on the other side of the aisle who will hear from their constituents and will really demand that, before we leave tomorrow, that we take action to extend unemployment benefits.
I thank the gentleman for yielding some time, and again, thank you for you leadership.