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Sheila J.
Democrat TX 18

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  • Providing for Consideration of Senate Amendment to H.J. Res. 59, Continuing Appropriations Resolution, 2014

    by Representative Sheila Jackson Lee

    Posted on 2013-12-12

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    JACKSON LEE. You know, it is very good that we have a deal. The American people are frustrated and tired. Our offices are being bombarded by calls from people from all political perspectives that they are glad for the deal; and to be honest with you, I am glad that we have made some progress. Many of us want to be part of the deal.

    But I know that it is equally important to raise the concern of faces like this, faces across America who equal the 1.3 million number of Americans who will lose their unemployment benefits; 3.5 million in 2014; 200,000 military veterans and 2 million children. And so we can't only be about ourselves in this holiday season, particularly as we recognize that the Pope, being named Man of the Year, has spoken to the world eloquently about this whole issue of the vulnerable.

    And so I ask this, Mr. Woodall and the Rules Committee: let's put the Van Hollen-Lee-Levin amendment to the floor tonight. Call us back, Mr. Boehner. Let us vote to provide for unemployment insurance for working men and women. Faces across America will not have the tears of desperation. The deal is good, but the people are suffering. We cannot allow this to happen in this season of joy and giving.

    Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak on the rule and the underlying bill, H.J. Res. 59, the ``Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013 and Pathway for Sustainable Growth in Medicare Reform Act of 2013.'' [[Page H7711]] The budget proposal before us is not perfect--far from it--but it is a modest and positive step toward preventing Republicans from shutting down the government again and manufacturing crises that only harm our economy, destroy jobs, and weaken our middle class. Thank goodness for small favors.

    As with any compromise there are some things in the agreement that I support and some things that I strongly oppose.

    On the positive side: Republicans--and the bipartisan deal does not cut Medicare, Social Security, or Medicaid benefits by a penny even though our friends across the aisle went into the talks insisting on cuts to programs that sustain families and seniors.

    Over the Republicans insistence, the agreement replaces almost two- thirds of the sequester's disastrous impending cuts to important domestic investments like education, medical research and law enforcement.

    The agreement scales back the proposed cuts to federal employees sought by Republicans and exempts current federal employees.

    On the negative side: Mr. Speaker, it is outrageous--it is scandalous--that the budget agreement does not include an extension of unemployment insurance for the 1.3 million jobless workers--68,900 in Texas--will have their benefits cut off on December 28, and nearly another 1.9 million-- 106,900 Texans--will lose their unemployment benefits over the first half of next year.

    If Congress does not act immediately to extend these benefits, a devastating blow will be dealt not only to the millions of Americans who are already struggling, but to our economy.

    That is why yesterday I joined with 165 of Democratic colleagues in calling upon Speaker Boehner not to adjourn this House for the year without extending the vital unemployment insurance desperately needed by millions of our fellow citizens.

    To let their benefits expire in the middle of the holiday season is cruel and heartless and unworthy of a great and generous nation.

    Cutting off unemployment benefits at the end of the year will only further hurt an economy already injured by sequestration and the Republican government shutdown.

    The Congressional Budget Office estimated that 750,000 fewer jobs will be created or retained in calendar year 2013 because of the budget cuts under sequestration.

    The government shutdown cost our economy an additional 120,000 jobs in the first two weeks of October alone, according to the Council of Economic Advisors.

    The Economic Policy Institute estimates that cutting off extended unemployment benefits would cost our economy 310,000 jobs next year because of reduced consumer demand.

    Other experts, like Michael Feroli, the chief economist at JPMorgan Chase, indicate that allowing the federal unemployment insurance (UI) program to expire could shave as much 0.4 percentage point off our economy's growth in the first quarter of 2014.

    Letting unemployment benefits expire will deprive our economy of the positive impact unemployment insurance provides since financially stressed unemployed workers spend any benefits they receive quickly.

    CBO also concluded in a 2012 report that assistance for the unemployed has one of the ``largest effects on employment per dollar of budgetary cost.'' I agree. Therefore, I urge all Members to join me in voting against this rule.

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