Senate Refuses To Extend Unemployment Pay Period

On February 26, by a vote of 58 to 39, the Senate rejected a motion to consider an amendment to the gun bill (S 1805) that would have extended and expanded the Temporary Extended Unemployment Compensation Act of 2002. Sen. Maria Cantwell (D.-Wash.) spearheaded this amendment. Voicing her concern over the loss of jobs in her state of Washington and throughout the country, Cantwell said, “While we are talking about gun liability, I think a more important question for this body to be debating is the liability we are leaving the American workers with when, in fact, this body refuses to pass unemployment benefit extensions at a time when our economy is not recovering at the speed it takes to create new jobs. Everything is not fine in the job market.† She claimed that the country has been ‘misled’ by President George W. Bush and his economic advisors in their predictions for economic growth in 2004. Explaining that unemployment numbers have been rising in steeper proportion to job gain, Cantwell said she believes that federal unemployment benefits and spending more money are the answer. Throwing extended unemployment benefits as a “lifeline† to those who have exhausted state benefits would help stimulate the national economy, Cantwell said, ignoring the fact that people receiving unemployment checks have less incentive to seek work. Cantwell was supported by Sen. Ron Wyden (D.-Ore.) and Sen. Ted Kennedy (D.-Mass.), who said, “We have a real need out there. Everyone who travels the country understands it, except the Republicans.† Arguing against a federal unemployment extension, Sen. John Ensign (R.-Nev.) said he wished to “put things into perspective† and noted that the “temporary extension has been done two different times.† He pointed out that the estimated $10 billion that would be added to the budget deficit because of extended federal unemployment benefits would be “borrowed† from Social Security receipts. Ensign also argued that expanding government spending will stifle private sector economic growth. “The No. 1 thing we can do for the economy, as a federal government, is to create the atmosphere where jobs are created,† Ensign said. “So the No. 1 thing we can do is make sure we keep our fiscal house in order by restraining federal spending.† A “yes” vote was a vote in favor of the amendment to extend federal unemployment benefits and a “no† vote was one against the extension. While the “yes† votes prevailed, a three-fifths majority was necessary to waive the Congressional Budget Act and proceed to a vote on the amendment.

For the Motion: 58 Against the Motion: 39
REPUBLICANS FOR (12): Bond Collins Chafee DeWine Dole McCain Murkowski Smith Snowe Specter Talent Voinovich DEMOCRATS FOR (45): Akaka Baucus Bayh Biden Bingaman Boxer Breaux Byrd Cantwell Carper Clinton Conrad Corzine Daschle Dayton Dodd Dorgan Durbin Feingold Feinstein Graham (Fla.) Harkin Hollings Inouye Johnson Kennedy Kohl Landrieu Lautenberg Leahy Levin Lieberman Lincoln Mikulski Murray Nelson (Fla.) Nelson (Neb.) Pryor Reed (R.I.) Reid (Nev.) Rockefeller Sarbanes Schumer Stabenow Wyden INDEPENDENT FOR (1): Jeffords REPUBLICANS AGAINST (38): Alexander Allard Allen Bennett Brownback Bunning Burns Cochran Coleman Cornyn Craig Crapo Chambliss Domenici Ensign Enzi Fitzgerald Frist Graham (S.C.) Grassley Gregg Hagel Hatch Hutchison Inhofe Kyl Lott Lugar McConnell Nickles Roberts Santorum Sessions Shelby Stevens Sununu Thomas Warner DEMOCRAT AGAINST (1): Miller


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