The Senate adjourned Wednesday night after falling two votes short of passing an extension of unemployment benefits after a protracted battle about the nation’s debt.
Sen. Sherrod Brown yesterday urged leaders to keep Congress in session into the holiday weekend and next week’s recess, if necessary, to pass a long-delayed extension of benefits and tax cuts that has been stalled in the Senate.
“For too many weeks, Republicans have blocked legislation that would extend tax cuts for small businesses, close tax loopholes that encourage corporations to ship jobs overseas, and extend unemployment insurance,” Brown said in a statement. “Congress should not adjourn for the July 4 holiday weekend without passing an extension of unemployment insurance.”
Dispite Brown’s plea, last night, for the third time in as many weeks, Senate Republicans successfully filibustered a bill to continue providing unemployment checks. The vote failed 58-38, two less than the required 60 votes needed to end a Republican filibuster. The vote was technically only one short of 60, but Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid voted no for procedural reasons.
Since the slimmed-down measure attracted two Republican votes, its passage seems assured later this month once a replacement is in place for Sen. Robert Byrd, who died Monday. By the time Byrd’s replacement is in place, over 2 million more Americans will have lost their benefits. This is in addition to the estimated 4 million who have already exhausted all benefits over 4 months ago.
Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson (Neb.) was again the lone Democrat vote against the bill. Reid expects the bill will get through the upper chamber once a replacement is named for Sen. Robert Byrd. Senators return to Washington for legislative business July 12.
The extension has been bottled up for weeks in the Senate, with majority Democrats failing to pass it as part of a broader jobs bill amid concerns about the deficit.
All 50 states will lose emergency funding that provides between 34 and 53 additional weeks on top of the state-provided 26 weeks.
Overall statistics on unemployment benefits are off the charts — 46 percent of 15 million unemployed Americans have been out of work for at least six months, with an average jobless for 34.4 weeks, the highest in history, according to NELP and Labor Department statistics.
A total of 54 percent of everyone who currently use unemployment insurance have or will exhaust all of their benefits.
The new unemployment numbers, to be announced tomorrow, Friday July 2, are expected to be a grave commentary on Washington’s response to this crisis.
House Ways and Means Committee Chair Sandy Levin (D-Mich.) and Rep. Jim McDermott (D-Wash.) had introduced the bill, H.R. 5618, to extend UI through Nov. 30 and to retroactively grant benefits to those who started losing them at the beginning of June. The the bill failed by a vote of 261 / 155 earlier this week.