Washington, D.C.—Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid made the following remarks on the Senate floor this evening regarding Republican obstruction of efforts to extend unemployment benefits to out-of-work Americans. Senator Reid’s remarks as prepared for delivery.
The Senate Democratic Web page now features a real-time clock with a running count of how many Americans continue to lose unemployment insurance because of Republican efforts to block extension of these benefits. This clock is available here: http://democrats.senate.gov/unemployment/.
“Another 7,000 jobless Americans will lose their unemployment insurance today – just as 7,000 lost theirs yesterday, and 7,000 more lost theirs the day before.
“I am deeply disappointed in the way Republicans have shown a complete lack of regard for the people behind those staggering numbers.
“We know that when an economy recovers, the unemployment rate is one of the last numbers to rebound – it’s what economists call a lagging indicator. So even as our economy begins to turn around, jobs will turn around slower.
“That fact, incidentally, is all the more reason for us to fix our economy faster, to stop putting off reforming a broken health insurance system that bankrupts so many families, and to do the other necessary things that will help us get out of this hole. The sooner we do them, the sooner jobs will come back.
“But they’re not back yet. The people of Nevada and those across the nation are hurting. Unemployment is at a 26-year high nationwide, and an all-time high in Nevada.
“They lost their jobs – often through no fault of their own – and many lost their health care along with it. They are having trouble finding new jobs, and so they are burning through their savings and what they’ve put away for their children.
“Some of these unemployed Americans are at the beginning of their careers. Some were at the prime of their careers, and are scrambling to finish with the dignity they’ve earned over decades of hard, honest work.
“So this is Democrats’ simple proposal: Let’s support those families who have been the victims of this recession. They need to put food on the table, and send their children to school, and pay ever-rising medical bills.
“We’re not asking for much, and we have the money to help them. Over the years, workers have contributed a little bit each paycheck to fund a safety net in the event they lost their jobs. It was insurance against unemployment. That’s exactly what has happened, and now they want to take that money – money set aside for precisely this purpose – to keep them afloat until they land their next job.
“So we have a proposal – a fully paid-for proposal, one that doesn’t add a dime to the deficit – to extend to workers their unemployment insurance by up to 14 weeks, and up to 20 weeks in states like Nevada that have been hit the hardest. We have the power and the ability to act. So let’s do it.
“The Republican response to that idea might sound familiar. It’s a word we’ve heard from them more than any other in recent days. The Republican response to helping the unemployed is: No.
“Republican Senators from Louisiana and Alabama and Arizona and Kentucky are saying ‘no’ to helping unemployed citizens in Louisiana and Alabama and Arizona and Kentucky. I doubt that’s the kind of legislating their constituents had in mind when they sent them here to the capital and asked them to be their voices in Congress.
“When we first brought up this bill three weeks ago, Republicans decided they would rather fight a partisan fight than help unemployed men and women in their own states. They decided to make a political statement by demanding completely irrelevant amendments, amendments that have absolutely nothing to do with unemployment specifically or even the economy generally. And they decided that that political statement was more important than helping their constituents afford to pay their bills. That’s wrong, and it’s an outrage.
“So that day, October 8, when we first brought to the Senate floor a plan to help unemployed Americans, Republicans said ‘no.’ And the next morning, 7,000 Americans woke up without the unemployment insurance they had been counting on.
“The next week, on October 13, we tried again. Again, Republicans said ‘no’ – and again, 7,000 Americans lost the help they need to get by.
“Then, last week, on October 21, we tried yet again. Once again, Republicans said ‘no’ – and again, 7,000 more Americans lost their benefits.
“In the 18 days since Republicans said first ‘no’ to helping unemployed Americans, more than 130,000 additional Americans have lost the relief they desperately need. Today, while Republicans continue to waste time, another 7,000 Americans will lose their unemployment insurance.
“If we don’t act, that number will total 2 million Americans by the end of the year. I wonder, how much higher does that number have to climb before Republicans put people ahead of their partisan excuses?”