Thanks to Kerry, Senate Rejects Extension of Unemployment Benefits

On May 11, by a vote of 59 to 40, the Senate narrowly failed to pass by one vote an amendment that would have extended unemployment benefits. (Sixty votes are necessary to waive the Budget Act to allow spending above the budget agreement.) As the only Senator missing from the vote, presidential hopeful Sen. John Kerry’s (D.-Mass.) absence handed the conservatives a fiscal victory. Kerry would most likely have supported the amendment, thus allowing it to pass. Missing votes is not a new phenomenon for Kerry. According to the Republican National Committee, Kerry missed 65 % of roll call votes during the 108th Congress (through March 5, 2004). Senate Democrats have tried several times to pass extended benefits for the unemployed and failed. The last vote took place on March 30 when the Senate failed to pass a $10 billion unemployment benefits package. This was an amendment to S. 1637, a bill that would repeal export subsidies that have been found illegal by the World Trade Organization and replace them with corporate tax breaks aimed primarily at helping American manufacturers and exporters. This matter gained urgency when the European Union began imposing penalties on selected U.S. products that can gradually rise to $4 billion a year. For selfish reasons, liberals twice blocked cloture on the bill last month when their unrelated and expensive amendments were not considered. Majority leader Sen. Bill Frist (R.-Tenn.) said that the unemployment benefits amendment and other issues like the overtime amendments, the trade assistance amendment, and others “would have been better suited on other bills.” “Basically what I see this doing is expanding an entitlement, saying, if you happen to be unemployed, either through manufacturing or through service workers, and somebody can say it is because those jobs went overseas–the Federal Government is going to pick up three-fourths of your health care cost for the next 2 years and you are entitled to 2 years of unemployment compensation,” Sen. Don Nickles (R.-Okla.). This is an expanding entitlement many conservatives would like to halt. “We have a little deficit problem around here. This is going to add to it. In fact, this would add to it to the tune of about $7 or $8 billion–$7.3 billion, I believe,” Nickles explained. While the amendment did not pass, cloture on S. 1637 was finally invoked on May 11. A “yes” vote was a vote to waive the Budget Act and in favor of extending unemployment benefits. A “no” vote was a vote against the unemployment extension.

For the Motion: 59 Against the Motion: 40
REPUBLICANS FOR (12): Bond Collins Chafee DeWine Dole McCain Murkowski Smith Snowe Specter Talent Voinovich DEMOCRATS FOR (46): Akaka Baucus Bayh Biden Bingaman Boxer Breaux Byrd Cantwell Carper Clinton Conrad Corzine Daschle Dayton Dodd Dorgan Durbin Edwards 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 INDEPENDENTS FOR (1): Jeffords REPUBLICANS AGAINST (39): Alexander Allard Allen Bennett Brownback Bunning Burns Campbell 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 DEMOCRATS AGAINST (1): Miller


. Kerry