• Forecast
  • News Tip
  • Categories
Temperature Precipitation
Estimated read time
3m 50s

Unemployment benefit extension clears Senate hurdle

By Rebecca Kaplan / CBS News 7:26 AM January 7, 2014

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said that “many on my side” would be happy to extend the benefits so long as they didn’t increase the deficit

A bipartisan measure to extend the Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC) program for three months cleared a procedural vote in the Senate Tuesday morning, despite concern from Republicans who say they would only consider the measure if it were offset by other spending cuts or revenue.

Though the bill was co-sponsored by Sens. Jack Reed, D-R.I., and Dean Heller, R-Nev., just five of Heller’s colleagues joined him in voting to begin debate on the three-month extension of the benefits that would have cost the government $6.5 billion. The EUC program, which was expanded by Congress in 2008 to provide extra income to the long-term unemployed, expired on Dec. 28. Immediately, 1.3 million Americans lost their benefits, and 1.9 million more will lose them in the next six months without a legislative fix.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., asked Republicans to back Heller, their colleague, ahead of the vote. He noted –as administration officials have over the last several days – that Democrats helped extend unemployment benefits during President George W. Bush’s term even when unemployment was much lower.

“These families live in red states, blue states, are Republicans, Democrats, Independents. We shouldn’t turn our backs on them,” Reid said. “In the past we’ve worked together on this. Did we complain when President Bush came to us? Unemployment was nowhere where it is now. There were not long-term unemployed. And we just automatically together extended those benefits. Not today. We’re not doing it because we can’t get the Republicans to help us.”

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said that “many on my side” would be happy to extend the benefits so long as they didn’t increase the deficit. He countered with a proposal to Reid that Republicans be allowed to offer an amendment that would pay for the benefits by deferring the Affordable Care Act’s insurance mandate for a year, which the Congressional Budget Office has said could save $35 billion over the course of a year by cutting federal Medicaid spending and delaying new tax credits to help people buy insurance.

That, of course, is a nonstarter with Democrats.

Even as the administration has continued to publicly push for an extension of the benefits without any offsets, Republican opposition grew throughout the day Monday. Several lawmakers, including Sens. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., and Bob Corker, R-Tenn., came out against the measure on Monday because it was not paid for.

Outside conservative groups piled on as well, urging lawmakers to vote “no” and promising to include the vote in a legislative scorecard.

“Taxpayers not cannot afford tens of billions in new spending (a full one-year extension would cost upwards of $25 billion), and even if lawmakers attempt to offset this new spending with real cuts elsewhere, they would still be throwing taxpayer money at an ineffective and wasteful program,” Heritage Action, one such group, said in a press release announcing their opposition.

They echoed a position taken by other lawmakers, which is that benefits for the long-term unemployed can have an adverse effect.

“I think it’s wrong to borrow money from China or simply to print up money for it. But I’m not against having unemployment insurance. I do think, though, that the longer you have it, that it provides some disincentive to work, and that there are many studies that indicate this,” said Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., on ABC’s “This Week” Sunday.

The five Republicans who joined Heller in voting to begin debate on the Reed-Heller bill were Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, Dan Coats of Indiana, Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Rob Portman of Ohio.

President Obama will continue a public show of support for an extension in a speech Tuesday, where he will be accompanied by Americans who have lost their benefits.

Speaking to reporters Monday ahead of the vote, Gene Sperling, the director of the National Economic Council, urged lawmakers to pass the legislation even though it is not paid for.

“We have just an urgent situation right now.  As I said, today is the day. People have been cut off, but today is the day they find the check not there.  The President believes that we should pass this right away with no strings attached,” he said in response to a question from CBS News White House Correspondent Major Garrett about whether the administration would consider negotiating some sort of an offset.

Latest Stories

  • On-Air

    Teacher of the Week: Julia Withers

    by Megan Mazurek on May 02, 12:54

    Julia Withers is all about the numbers. “Math was probably always one of my stronger subjects,” Withers said. She teaches math and physical education at Highland Tech Charter School in Anchorage. The school has small class sizes, something that makes Withers feel right at home. “I like that it’s small. I really like that the […]

  • News

    Hawaii, Alaska, Southwest face increased wildfire threat

    by Associated Press on May 02, 11:04

    Fire forecasters say Hawaii, Alaska and the Southwest will face an increased threat of wildfires this summer. The National Interagency Fire Center released its outlook for the spring and summer on Sunday. It says most of the country will face normal or below-normal wildfire problems. That’s welcome news after last year, when a record 15,800 […]

  • Politics

    Coghill recommending lawmakers drop Medicaid suit

    by Becky Bohrer / AP on May 02, 9:09

    The majority leader of the Alaska Senate says he has recommended that lawmakers drop their lawsuit challenging Gov. Bill Walker’s authority to expand Medicaid on his own. Sen. John Coghill says the issue has gotten wrapped up in the politics surrounding Medicaid expansion. He says the issue adds to the contention as lawmakers try to […]

  • News

    Stolen car found crashed in tree on Bragaw

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on May 02, 8:22

    The Anchorage Police Department is searching for a woman who allegedly stole a car then crashed into a tree on Bragaw Street early Monday morning. APD Sgt. Ty Witte said officers were dispatched to the crash and realized the Honda Pilot was stolen once they arrived on scene. He said according to a witness the […]

  • DayBreak

    Goats, sheep, pigs, oh my!: Getting the hang of hobby farming in Anchorage

    by Sierra Starks on May 02, 7:57

    Hobby farming for Delinda Witman began “on a whim.” “I started with seven chickens,” Witman recalled. “It was in Wasilla, and someone was selling them. And I picked them up … and that’s it. No coop, no nothing.” Her small band of birds then expanded to ducks, geese and quail, all nestled in their own […]

  • Politics

    Alaska GOP wraps up convention in Fairbanks

    by Liz Raines on May 02, 6:58

    The Alaska Republican Party convention wrapped up in Fairbanks on Sunday after drawing nearly 400 people to the Golden Heart City. Attendees spent hours in committee meetings, debating party rules, principles, and the political future. “It’s painful, it’s arduous, it’s time consuming, at times it’s frustrating,” said Bruce Schulte, an Anchorage district chairman. “But it’s essential.” […]

  • News

    For disabled veterans, fly fishing fuels healing

    by Eric Ruble on May 01, 18:43

    A program teaching fishing skills is helping military veterans overcome physical and mental obstacles associated with combat trauma. Like many of the people gathered in a room at the William Jack Hernandez Sport Fish Hatchery Sunday morning, Todd Green used to know nothing about fly fishing. But before the end of the day, the Army […]

  • Lifestyle

    Anchorage man turns kitchen into philanthropy factory

    by Eric Ruble on May 01, 18:29

    Ira Edwards seems to have more hours in the day than everyone else. When he’s not working for the state, he spends his time hunting, skiing, gardening and, most recently, getting his new business of the ground. RoosterSkier Brand is the name of his recently expanded line of products made by hand in the kitchen […]