On Feb. 4, 2004, by a vote of 227 to 179, the House, in its first substantive action since returning from the lengthy Christmas recess, voted in favor of an amendment to the Community Services Block Grant Act of 2003 (H.R. 3030) to authorize still more money for unemployment benefits, which have been repeatedly extended since 2001.
In fact, the amendment had nothing to do with the bill in question. Nonetheless, Democrats saw it as a political opportunity to inveigh against President Bush, who has presided over a weak economy since his inauguration in 2001. They had the help of 39 turncoat Republicans, some of whom, facing tough elections, did not wish to rock the political boat by voting against an extension of the program that pays people to not work. Among them was Rep. Richard Burr (R.-N.C.), who is running for Senate.
Democrats gleefully and unanimously backed the amendment, which was sponsored by Rep. George Miller (D.-Calif.). Although much of their rhetoric was about helping working Americans, they were pushing a program that helps non-working Americans only, and actually forces working Americans to pay them not to work. The program also provides a strong disincentive to find a job until benefits expire, especially since Congress keeps extending them on a regular basis.
“I urge my colleagues to support the Miller amendment which would extend unemployment benefits for the two million unemployed Americans whose benefits have run out,” said Rep. Louise Slaughter (D.-N.Y.). “Almost daily, my office hears from those Americans who are afraid of losing their homes or having to take their children out of school and simply being unable to meet their obligations. We owe it to them to give them some help until a job can be found for them.”
Various analyses, however, have shown that unemployment benefits often delay the coming if the economic incentive for unemployed workers to find jobs, thus inflating unemployment figures.
“Over 2.9 million jobs lost, versus 1,000 gained last month, ” said Rep. Elijah Cummings (D.-Md.). “That is a zero-sum gain,” he continued, apparently not knowing what that phrase means. Also, since then, the job-creation figures, as predicted, have increased appreciably.
Rep. John Boehner (R.-Ohio), urging some fiscal discipline from the Congress, spoke against the extension. “Last March, this Congress provided $8 billion additional to the states for the extension of unemployment benefits, $8 billion,” said Boehner. “If you look at nearly two years since Congress provided this $8 billion in federal funds, states have spent less than half of this to assist unemployed workers. A total of 45 states still have some of their share of the original $8 billion. 31 states, 31 states still have over 90% of the money that Congress allocated to them still in their accounts today.”
Boehner also pointed out that the bill at hand was not an appropriate vehicle for an amendment to extend unemployment benefits.
Conservative Rep. J.D. Hayworth (R.-Ariz.) pointed out that government handouts are not a good way of encouraging compassion. “If you measure compassion by the number of people who stay on unemployment, I think that is a curious standard, ” said Hayworth. “Compassion is not measured by the number of people who remain on unemployment and collect those checks. True compassion is measured by the number of people who leave unemployment and find real, rewarding jobs. ”
A “yes “vote was a vote for an amendment to authorize the extension of unemployment benefits. A “no ” vote was a vote against the amendment.
|FOR THE AMENDMENT: 227||AGAINST THE AMENDMENT: 179|
|REPUBLICANS FOR: 39
DEMOCRATS FOR: 187
INDEPENDENTS FOR: 1
|REPUBLICANS AGAINST: 179
Davis, Jo Ann
DEMOCRATS AGAINST: 0
NOT VOTING: 27
|REPUBLICANS (10):||DEMOCRATS (17):||INDEPENDENTS (0)|
| Brown-Waite, Ginny