(Note: if you are a 99er in CO, and are willing to tell your story, please send me an email right away to [email protected])
It’s no secret that the Democratic leadership in Washington has been under a lot of pressure for not standing up to the Republican’s G-OOOO-P strategy (ongoing, obvious, obnoxious, obstruction) and for caving in to every demand made by Mitch McConnell & Co just for the right side of the aisle to vote ‘No’ regardless of what concessions were made by the Demorats.
Today, however, there were some very surprising developments coming out of both Chambers on Capitol Hill:
- First – Democratic Senators Debbie Stabenow (MI) and Chuck Schumer (NY) finally made good on their word and announced the introduction of the ‘America Wants To Work Act’ (S.3706). This is long-awaited, great news for the estimated 4 million jobless workers across the country.
If the Senate can overcome the expected GOP filibuster and actually send the bill to the House for a vote (where it is expected to pass), the measure will provide an additional 20 weeks of benefits to those who have already exhausted their unemployment benefits (99ers).
In addition, it would extend the H.I.R.E. Act, a bill which provides tax credits and other incentives for businesses who hire the long term unemployed. Currently, companies who hire new workers that have been unemployed for 60 days or longer do not have to pay FICA taxes on that employees earnings until 2011 under the measure. To date, it is reported the bill has been very successful in stimulating business to hire long term, unemployed workers. The tax incentives on the extended measure (if passed) apply only to those new-hire workers who have exhausted benefits; while eligibility for the program will be retroactive, payments will not be paid retroactively.
The America Wants to Work Act is also co-sponsored by Harry Reid (D-NV), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Carl Levin (D-MI), Bob Casey (D-PA), Chris Dodd (D-CT), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Jack Reed (D-RI), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), You can learn more details about the proposed legislation here. Many thanks to Senator Stabenow and all the other Senator’s for their support of the 99er community.
- Second – Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) was able to finally overcome (another) GOP filibuster when Olympia Snowe (R-ME) and Susan Collins (R-ME) crossed party lines and voted in favor of a $26 billion bill which will provide States with much needed funding for Medicaid and the prevention of massive public employee layoffs. Thanks again to Senators Snowe and Collins for not voting with their Party in an effort to help American workers.
In response to the news, Colorado Governor Bill Ritter told Bloomberg Businessweek, “He had already accounted for a six-month increase in federal funding for Medicaid when putting together the state’s budget for the coming year. If Congress does not provide that additional money, “that means making $211 million in cuts immediately.” (Keep in mind that is in addition to the $75 million shortfall in the State’s budget which Ritter announced in June, 2010).
- Third – House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) calls the House back in session next week to vote on the $26 billion measure passed in the Senate today (noted above).
- Finally – to make it an official homerun for Colorado voters, an online poll conducted by the Denver Business Journal indicates that Andrew Romanoff leads all candidates for the Colorado Senate seat currently held by Michael Bennet. The Denver Business Pulse survey indicates that as of 10pm tonight (when I cast my vote) Andrew Romanoff currently leads the race with 34% of the vote with 17% going to Bennet, 20% to K. Norton (R) and 22% going to J. Norton (R).
You can learn more about why I support Andrew Romanoff by reading my recent article, ‘Unemployed Americans look to Andrew Romanoff to provide Democratic leadership in the Senate’,
The news for unemployed workers was first broke by MSNBC’s Ed Schultz of the Ed Schultz show. Ed is a true champion of the 99ers; he was instrumental in getting the attention of the White House and members of Congress on this issue. We all owe him and others a great deal of gratitude. Thanks, Ed for all of your very public support.
The big question for 99ers now is whether or not they can put enough pressure on Republicans in the Senate to get the America Wants To Work legislation passed and sent to the House for a vote next week while the lower chamber is temporarily back in session. As it currently sits, the bill is not expected to be voted on until members from both Chambers return to Washington in September.
Overall, today was a great day for the unemployed, the middle class, and for Democrats. It’s about time the Democrats started showing some much needed leadership coming from Washington.
Don’t forget to contact your Congressional representatives (1-888-245-0215) and push Republican in the Senate to support the Americans Want To Work Act. It’s going to take a lot of work to get this done – the GOOOOP has not changed its tune, but we will prevail with persistence.
I am still waiting on confirmation of a few details, but will be posting additional information regarding the SEB2 unemployment benefits program tomorrow.