Democratic Senator: Republican Obstruction Responsible For 27 Direct Layoffs

The Republican accomplishment last week to block extension of a variety of recession-related benefits will cause at least 27 Americans to lose their jobs, according to the chairwoman of the Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee. The Senate GOP is supporting the effort of Sen. Jim Bunning (R-Ky.) to block a vote of a Democratic bill that would extend unemployment insurance, health coverage, and other benefits aimed to help Americans deal with the recession. The bill would extend two key small business provisions enacted in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act: increased government guarantees and eliminated fees on small business loans. Many of the programs, including the small business provisions, will expire Sunday, Feb. 28. U.S. unemployment stands at 9.7 … Continue reading

Unemployment Benefits For Millions of Americans To Expire, ‘But The Need To Buy Groceries Doesn’t’

Millions of out-of-work Americans are poised to lose critical benefits due to the opposition of one Republican senator who would only agree to an extension of those benefits if they come out of federal economic stimulus dollars, according to the Senate’s top Democrat. The Senate adjourned for the week with Sen. Jim Bunning (R-Ky.) continuing to block Democratic legislation that would extend unemployment insurance and COBRA health benefits for those who will start losing them on Sunday. The Senate’s other Republicans have chosen to uphold Bunning’s filibuster. The unemployment insurance provides the unemployed with some income while they seek work, while the COBRA benefit pays for health coverage. The U.S. unemployment rate stands at a decades-high 9.7 percent will lose … Continue reading

In The ‘Back Seat’ No More: New Legislation Would Protect Workers, Retirees When Their Employers Go Bankrupt

Democrats in both the House and Senate introduced legislation Wednesday designed to protect the earnings and retirement savings of workers and retirees when businesses collapse. The Protecting Employees and Retirees in Business Bankruptcies Act would make several changes to Chapter 11 bankruptcy law, putting workers interests near the top when companies file for bankruptcy, according to Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers (D-Mich.), the lawmakers behind the proposal. The Senate bill is cosponsored by Sens. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Al Franken (D-Minn.). The legislation is similar to a bill Durbin and Conyers introduced in the previous Congress. “American workers and retirees who give their lives to a company are too often treated … Continue reading

Antitrust Tsunami: Even Howls From Powerful Insurance Lobby Can’t Save Exemption

Turning their backs to the howls of protest from the powerful health insurance lobby, more than 400 Democrats and Republicans voted to do away with the antitrust exemption the insurance industry has enjoyed for 65 years. In an almost-unheard-of bipartisan move on the issue of healthcare, House members overwhelmingly voted, 406 to 19, to approve H.R. 4626, the Health Insurance Industry Fair Competition Act, which would repeal the health insurance industry’s antitrust protection. “This antitrust exemption was passed again around over 60 years ago and was supposed to last three years. Sixty-five years later, we are on the floor of the House to finally repeal the special exemption that insurance companies have that no other industry, except Major League Baseball, … Continue reading

Toyota Acceleration Recall Prompts Consumer Group To Offer Suggestions For Powerful House Committee Chairman Eager To Legislate

Sitting down to hear Rhonda Smith tell of the unintended acceleration of her Toyota-made Lexus vehicle that left her car out of control and certain she would die, the powerful chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee made clear that new legislation will be required. Meanwhile, one of the nation’s best-known consumer groups provided some legislative grist in the form of recommendations to reform U.S. car safety regulation. A House Energy and Commerce Committee subcommittee met Tuesday to probe the response of the Toyota Motor Corp., and the the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to incidents of sudden unintended acceleration in Toyota vehicles that sent cars speeding out of control, to speeds of 100 miles per hour. Among … Continue reading

No Longer Relying On All Or Nothing: Lawmakers Carve Out Specific Health Reforms Aimed At Curbing The Worst Abuses

Democrats are expressing support for President Obama’s new proposal to jumpstart healthcare reform ahead of this week’s White House meeting with the GOP, but some prominent lawmakers appear to no longer be betting all their hopes that comprehensive legislation will be enacted. They are either talking up specific provisions of reform that could be approved individually, or in at least one case, introducing new legislation aimed at curbing the worst. Obama will meet this week in Washington with Republicans in a televised summit to hash out the potential for moving forward with comprehensive healthcare reform, which has been stalled since Massachusetts Republican Scott Brown won a Jan. 19 special election that handed Senate Republicans a 41st seat capable to sustaining … Continue reading

Lawmakers Will Join Labor Leaders To Rally in Washington For Full TSA Union Representation

Reps. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) and Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) plan to rally with organized labor in Washington to call on Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano to grant full collective bargaining rights to more than 50,000 workers at the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). Airport security personnel — known as transportation security officers, or TSOs — have been barred from being able to fully organize a union since TSA was first established in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. It began as a freestanding agency, and was later folded into the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) when that agency was first established as a new Cabinet-level department in 2003. TSA presently is without permanent leadership. President Obama nominated Erroll Southers, … Continue reading