The end of another week brings jobless Americans closer to losing unemployment benefits, but the Senate has yet to approve its bill extending those benefits.
The Senate spent the week accepting and rejecting a number of amendments to the American Jobs and Closing Loopholes Act, the legislation to extend supplemental income benefits for the nation’s unemployed. That includes a proposal the Senate rejected offered by Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) to cut federal spending. Critics argued the Thune amendment would have the effect of shutting down the federal government for the final months of the current federal fiscal year.
Republicans also prevented the bill from moving forward to a final vote.
“Unemployed workers in Nevada and across America cannot afford the games that Senate Republicans are playing with their economic certainty,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) says. “I am disappointed that despite high unemployment numbers in Nevada and across the nation, not one Republican voted to provide out-of-work Americans the support they need to make ends meet. Senate Democrats will continue to fight to pass this bill and restore peace of mind to the middle-class families across America who Republicans have repeatedly turned their backs on.”
Nearly 100,000 unemployed Americans in Ohio alone will lose their unemployment benefits at the end of June unless the Senate approves the bill, Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) warns. Brown adds that he wants to amend the legislation to include an extension of the COBRA temporary health coverage subsidy for workers laid off after May 31.
“With the country facing high unemployment and a weak economy in the short term and severe budget problems in the long term, you’d think that senators negotiating a jobs bill would be trying to maximize both its short-term economic boost and its long-term budget savings. You’d be wrong,” Chuck Marr, director of federal tax policy at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, says in a new blog post.
“In fact, senators trying to extract final concessions as the price of supporting the bill are pushing in the opposite direction,” Marr adds. “They are trying to whittle down the measure’s temporary state fiscal assistance and help for unemployed workers, despite abundant evidence that these measures will save jobs, help the jobless, and boost the economy.”
Despite the pressing need to pass the legislation to continue assistance for the nation’s jobless, the Senate is not scheduled to resume consideration of the legislation during its next session on Monday. Instead, senators will consider nominations.
The nation’s unemployment rates sits at a decades-high 9.7 percent, with five or six unemployed Americans in line for every available job opening.
Despite the impending loss of income that many out-of-work Americans rely upon to keep their heads above water, other senators are seeking to amend the American Jobs and Closing Loopholes Act with more provisions entirely unrelated to joblessness.
That includes a measure Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.) introduced Tuesday to offer IRS assistance to homeowners who have fallen victim to tainted drywall made in China. A number of home problems have been traced to the contaminated construction material, which emits a foul odor. The drywall reportedly has caused bad odors, serious respiratory problems and mysterious failures of such appliances as dishwashers, air conditioners, and computers.
More than 3,300 cases of Chinese-made drywall trouble have been reported in 37 states, as well as the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, Webb notes in a statement on his proposed amendment, which would require that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) issue guidance on the applicability of Chinese drywall victims filing for a casualty loss deduction on their homes and possessions.
The publisher of the news site On The Hill, Scott Nance has covered Congress and the federal government for more than a decade.