That’s all it would have taken Thursday to break a Senate filibuster and move forward a bill to extend unemployment benefits for nearly 2 million out-of-work Americans who have exhausted their federal aid. Extended unemployment benefits expired at the end of 2013.
But no, Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) could only get four Republicans on board with Democrats, so the extension bill died. Even if it had passed the Senate, it faced what looked like an impossible challenge from the Republican-dominated House. Conservatives in that body claim that the $6 billion cost would be passed along as debt to future generations.
That’s not how House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) sees it. In a statement, she said
Once again, Republicans have shown contempt and disregard for the 1.7 million Americans and counting who have been cut off from emergency unemployment insurance. These hard-working Americans lost their jobs through no fault of their own, and depend on this lifeline to carry their families through the crisis of unemployment as they search for work. … It is immoral, irresponsible and indefensible to refuse to renew this emergency support when long-term unemployment rates remain so high.
The failure of most Republicans in Congress to support an extension of unemployment benefits goes hand in hand with their recent cuts in food stamps and lack of support for increasing the federal minimum wage—all measures that would benefit those most affected by the recent recession.
To learn more about the issues surrounding food stamps and the minimum wage, see the latest issue of Ms. magazine, which covers both of these topics in depth. Join the Ms. community today—to receive the magazine through our digital app or receive a print subscription—and don’t miss a word!
Photo of Sen. Harry Reid looking at statistic showing number of Americans who have lost unemployment benefits since Congress failed to approve an extension, from Flickr user Senate Democrats under license from Creative Commons 2.0