As Democrats attempt to position H.R.6419, the Emergency Unemployment Compensation Continuation Act, for another vote in the House of Representatives, where it failed to pass on Thursday, there remains the problem of passage in the U. S. Senate, which has no vote scheduled on the unemployment benefits extension issue. Two senators, Jack Reed (D-RI) and Robert Casey (D-PA), proposed Wednesday that, instead of the stop-gap measures that have been presented thus far, unemployment extension benefits should be extended for another year.
“We are still in the process of trying to establish the schedule of the lame duck session,” Reed told The Raw Story, “in terms of the remaining days of the session, so no specifics, but think we all understand that this is something that is going to have to be done.”
The current unemployment extensions are set to expire on December 1. Congress is set to recess for Thanksgiving on Monday, November 22, which means that the House has to pass the current measure by Friday, November 19, to see a vote in the Senate before the holiday recess. Otherwise, the legislation would have to wait until Congress reconvenes on Friday, November 26.
Reed said, “At this point it’s not been scheduled. We’re trying to make a case that there will be action but at this point I can’t point to a specific time it will come up for a vote this week.”
Senator Robert Casey, who joined Reed during the conference call interview, noted, “Congress must act now to preserve unemployment insurance for the two million Americans and 83,000 Pennsylvanians who will lose this financial lifeline at the end of the month. Doing nothing will hurt millions of Americans, job creation and the economic recovery.”
Republicans blocked the passage of H.R.6419 because it wasn’t funded or offset. Republicans are pushing for unused stimulus money to be used to pay for the extensions.
But if nothing is done in the next few days, millions of Americans begin losing their eligibility for emergency extension benefits. For many, unemployment benefits checks, which average approximately $312 per payee per week, are part of a combination of savings, pensions, loans, and contributions that are keeping them currently financially afloat. For some, it is their only means of income. If no extension legislation is passed by the House, it is estimated that by the end of December as many as 2 million more jobless Americans will join an already estimated 2-4 million individuals who once received benefits and have since become reclassified as ineligible (and who are collectively known as “99ers”).
The failed unemployment extension legislation is the third such measure placed before Congress this year. A year-long extension, like the one proposed by Senators Reed and Casey, would allow for a uninterrupted continuation of benefits, providing recipients with a measure of security and Congress a respite from having to debate unemployment legislation for weeks at a time.
But such a measure would meet stiff resistance from Republicans. The last piece of unemployment benefits legislation was filibustered and wasn’t passed until the end of July, although the emergency benefits had expired at the beginning of June, leaving millions without benefits for nearly two full months.
Although any unemployment extension legislation that comes from the House of Representatives in the future will undoubtedly be paid for (Republicans will control the House in the 112th Congress, which convenes January 3), it is very doubtful that there will be any measure that allows for such an extended period of unemployment extensions.