An unemployment benefits extension for 2014 finally passed the U.S. Senate Monday, more than three months after the vital lifeline for long-term job-seekers was suddenly cut off at the end of December. But the 2014 unemployment extension now faces a massive roadblock in the house where Republican leaders remain dead set against helping those who lost their jobs through no fault of their own more than 26 weeks ago.
Benefits were stopped December 29 for the 1.3 million Americans who at that time had received benefits for more than the initial 26-week time period. As each week passes, roughly 70,000 more job-seekers lose the benefits that they were once counting on to help with basic bills and minimal living expenses while they devote themselves to finding more work.
Yet Republican House Speaker John Boehner, who will decide whether or not to bring the Senate bill to a vote on the House floor, has vowed to stop the unemployment extension, saying that congress should focus instead on bills that he says would create jobs — though House Republicans have not proposed any measures targeted toward job creation.
“I made clear that if we’re going to consider dealing with emergency unemployment, we ought to do something about creating better jobs in America, higher wages in America,” Boehner said. “What those people want is a chance at a good job, and I’m trying to get them one.”
The Congressional Budget Office has found that an unemployment benefits extension is itself an effective job-creation measure, because the unemployed spend their benefits quickly, pumping much-needed cash into the still-struggling economy, while also encouraging their recipients to continue looking for jobs.
Democrats say, however, that passing the 2014 unemployment extension bill is a no-brainer, and that Boehner knows, if given a chance, even House Republicans would largely support it. Seven House Republicans, three from New York, three from New Jersey and one from Nevada, have announcced that they would vote in favor of the 2014 unemployment extension.
“If our bill was put up for a vote in the House, there is no question it would pass,” said Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer. “Contrary to right-wing talking points, many of the people who would benefit this bill are out of work through no fault of their own, and have been knocking on doors and going online looking for a job for months or even years. The House needs to extend unemployment benefits to millions of Americans right now, without attaching extraneous issues that are merely an attempt to score political points.”
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid accused Republicans of following marching orders from billionaire conservative political donors Charles and David Koch in opposing the 2014 unemployment extension.
“Americans need a fair shot at getting back on their feet and finding work, but Koch-backed groups are actively opposing the extension of benefits for the long-term unemployed,” Reid said.
President Barack Obama also implored Republicans in the House to pass the measure, which got through the Senate 59-38, with six Senate Republicans bucking their party line and voting in favor of the unemployment extension, urging Boehner and other House GOP members to “put politics aside and help these hardworking, responsible Americans make ends meet and support their families as they look for a job.”