Unemployment benefits expire, Dems vow to fight on

BY CNN’s Bryan Koenig

Dec. 30, 2013
(CNN) – Long-term unemployment benefits for 1.3 million Americans expired Saturday after Congress failed to pass an extension. Reinstating those benefits is expected to be one of the first priorities for congressional Democrats in the new year.

“Extending unemployment insurance is the right thing to do for millions of Americans who are trying to support their families,” Democratic National Committee chairwoman and Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz said in a statement Saturday. “What makes matters worse, the loss of benefits comes just a few days after the holidays.”

Like most Democrats, Wasserman Schultz laid the blame for the expiring benefits – now reverting back to 26 weeks of coverage – squarely at the feet of congressional Republicans.

Many Republicans have in turn argued that the extended emergency federal benefits – passed during the Great Recession – are a disincentive for job hunting and are no longer necessary as the economy improves and unemployment ticks down.

Unemployment isn’t going down fast enough, say Democrats. They argue that without the extended benefits, recipients will severely curtail their spending and be a drag on the economy.

“As we continue our work to create more good paying jobs, it is essential that we extend unemployment benefits to the millions of American families who still need and rely on them,” Wasserman Schultz said.

President Barack Obama also weighed in Friday, according to the White House. In a phone call to Sens. Jack Reed, D-Rhode Island, and Dean Heller, R-Nevada, Obama voiced his own support for reinstating the prolonged unemployment benefits, the goal of a bill co-sponsored by the two men. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has pledged to take the benefits up as soon as the chamber returns from its break early next month.

Heller has been one of the few Republicans to vocally support extending the benefits – although House Speaker John Boehner has expressed some willingness to negotiate on the matter.

In a statement announcing his extension bill, Heller argued that “providing a safety net for those in need is one of the most important functions of the federal government.”

“As Nevada’s unemployment rate continues to top the charts nationwide, many families and individuals back home do not know how they are going to meet their basic needs,” Heller said.

A number of Democrats also took to Twitter on Saturday to argue for extending the benefits.

3 Comments on this post.

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  • Pepe
    31 December 2013 at 6:11 pm - Reply

    For me, why should I extend unemployment insurance to 99 weeks, 26 weeks is just right..tell them to look for a job..I worked 2 jobs and I am sure they are stronger, then me. You Democrats are trying to support people who are lazy, you are trying to create a country of people who will be dependent on government hand-outs in order to get more votes.The illegals had taken some of their jobs,and yet you want amnesty to illegals….

  • amfil
    1 January 2014 at 11:33 pm - Reply

    Both parties should have JOBS JOBS JOBS as the number 1 priority

    Obamacare and Immigration Reform can wait until most Americans are employed

    the Democrats promise the moon and the stars.., without worrying the burden to all Americans

    2 January 2014 at 5:11 pm - Reply

    America, is in a big mess, you have people out of jobs you have people that dependent on the government, so this is what going happen in 2014, more people will be out o jobs, the government going say to the American people hell with you ! Until they have more jobs out there ? America will be in a mess without jobs because no money to support they family ? We will be like Japan after 20 years they still in a mess !