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Harry R.
Democrat NV

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  • Unemployment Compensation

    by Senator Harry Reid

    Posted on 2014-01-09

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    REID. Another day has passed and we still have a vast majority of Republicans standing in the way of the extension of unemployment benefits.

    Some Republican Senators are having conversations about possible offsets for a full-year extension. I have said a number of times I think we would be ill-advised to have another short-term extension. If we are going to have an extension that they are talking about paying for, let's do it for 1 year. We don't need to come back and worry about this in 3 more months.

    Let's see how they wish to pay for this. We have heard proposals. The proposals are, one, to stop people having health care. The other is to go after children, the earned-income tax credit for American boys and girls. It doesn't sound like a very good idea to me.

    Then we have a number of proposals suggested by another Senator late last night that, if we look at it, it is not worth $5 billion. It is worth much less than that. To do what has been suggested by one Republican Senator would be to devastate the disabled, and that wouldn't be appropriate.

    I would be interested if there are other proposals. As I have indicated on a number of occasions, I continue to say offsetting the cost of emergency unemployment benefits is not something I agree with.

    President Bush extended emergency unemployment insurance five times. Not one of these five times was there a whimper from my Republican colleagues or certainly Democratic Senators that it should be paid for. It wasn't right to offset the cost when President Bush was President, and it is not right to offset the cost now that President Obama is in the White House.

    We have cut the deficit in half since President Obama took office, and overall debt reduction has been even more transparent, almost $3 trillion. While we must keep up our good work, we have more to do. We must solve the Nation's job crisis if we ever hope to solve fiscal problems.

    Today's long-term unemployment rate is more than double what it was at any time Congress let emergency job assistance expire. Since many Republican Senators are insisting that the cost be offset, I am pleased to talk, as we all are on this side of the aisle, about a long-term emergency extension of unemployment benefits. I repeat, I am waiting to hear from my Republican colleagues about how to pay for this extension.

    It has been a week since families already hanging by a thread were kicked off of unemployment insurance benefits. Think about this. People who have been out of work for month after [[Page S190]] month learned at the beginning of this year they wouldn't get $300 a week.

    Remember, this is not charity. First, they have to lose their job, through no fault of their own. Then they have to go out every week, look for a job, and have to list where they have gone.

    For every job that is available in America today, there are three people looking for that job. I was stunned when I had my news briefing this morning when one Republican Senator said: There are so many jobs that are unfilled in America today. Let these people go get those jobs. Try that one on for size.

    For many the benefits were the only thing preventing them from descending into poverty or even becoming homeless. Hundreds of thousands of children, as a result of these benefits, have been stopped from going into the rolls of the poor.

    These families can't wait any longer for relief. I am optimistic my Republican colleagues will help us find a way out of this, and put people first and partisanship second.

    Tuesday, House Republican leaders were forced to send a message to their Members reminding them these people are out of work, be compassionate. Then, of course, the memo came to the Senate.

    Can one imagine having to remind Senators about having compassion for people who have been long-term unemployed? Yesterday afternoon the Republican leader spoke in this Chamber for a long time, 45 minutes. Not once during this discussion were the words ``jobs,'' ``the economy'' or ``unemployment'' mentioned--not once.

    Middle-class Americans are hurting. We know the rich are getting richer, the poor are getting poorer, and the middle class is being squeezed.

    During the last 30 years, the middle class has lost 10 percent of the earnings they had in the previous 30 years, whereas the top 1 percent during that same 30-year period had their income and wealth triple.

    These people who are struggling out there are working two jobs. Some are even trying to do it with three jobs, and some of it is part-time, just in an effort to get by. The rest have watched their wages shrink at the same time, as I have indicated, as the richest of the rich are doing much, much better.

    What beleaguered Americans need is not a memo on basic decency, as Republicans got on Tuesday, or a bitter diatribe about the rules of the Senate; they need solutions. For 1.3 million Americans today and 5 million Americans over the course of this year, extending emergency unemployment benefits is a solution.

    Raising the minimum wage so a mother or father working two jobs can afford the rent and an electric bill in the same month is a solution. Investing in job creation and education so the workers of today can compete for the jobs of tomorrow is a solution. Whenever my Republican colleagues are prepared to stop complaining and start working with Democrats to create solutions, we will be here waiting.


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