Washington, DC—Nevada Senator Harry Reid made the following remarks on the Senate floor today regarding Republican efforts to block unemployment assistance for millions of Americans:
“When millions of Americans lost their jobs, they didn’t just lose a place to go to work in the morning. They lost their incomes, their savings and their retirement security. They lost their tuition payments. Many lost their homes. They lost their gas money and their grocery money. All of this through no fault of their own.
“I’m not talking about just a handful of people in an isolated corner of the country. I’m talking about millions of Americans from every one of our states.
“To so many of them, unemployment is not just a temporary inconvenience. For far too many, it’s an unending emergency.
“As the front page of today’s New York Times reports, 40 percent of the unemployed in this country have been out of work for six months or longer.
“They’re trying to understand why at this pressing moment – when jobs are harder to come by than at any other time in recent memory – Congress can’t get its act together to extend emergency insurance, just as we’ve always done with bipartisan backing.
“Well, part of the reason is that many on the other side don’t see this as an emergency. They look at a crisis for families’ budgets and see an opportunity for their political fortunes. They think that when unemployment goes up, so do their poll numbers.
“Some even think that the unemployed enjoy being out of work. That’s why one of the top Republicans in the Senate called unemployment assistance a ‘disincentive for them to seek new work,’ and voted three times in recent weeks against extending it.
“Another senior Republican Senator said these Americans – people who want nothing more than to find a new job – ‘don’t want to go look for work.’ And then he, too, voted ‘no’ three times.
“And a third senior Republican Senator – who, like his colleagues, has time and again stood in the way of addressing this emergency – justified it by saying, ‘We should not be giving cash to people who basically are just going to blow it on drugs.’ That’s a direct quote.
“Many of my constituents take offense at these absurd allegations, and they’ve let me know about it. They’ve written or called me, or pulled me aside when I see them in Nevada.
“One of these many e-mails came last week from Las Vegas, where unemployment is now 14.5 percent. A man named Scott Headrick wrote me to voice his anger. He’s one of 2.5 million Americans who, because of Republicans’ objections, are no longer getting the unemployment help they need. This is what he wrote me:
“‘I’ve been unemployed since July 2008 and have not been able to obtain a position at a supermarket packing groceries. I’ve been religiously seeking, searching and applying for work without any luck. I have since left my family in Las Vegas, a wife and five children, to look for work in other states and again, without any luck.’
“Scott mentioned the Senators making these outrageous claims and demanded that they, in his words, ‘apologize to those Americans truthfully looking for work to support their families.’
“‘I and my family have already lost everything but each other,’ he wrote at the end of his e-mail.
“Scott’s right. The twisted logic we’ve seen in the unemployment debate isn’t just appalling or heartless, though it is certainly both of those things. It’s also factually wrong.
“First, there is only one open job in America for every five Americans desperate to fill it. So no one should be so crass as to accuse anyone of being unemployed by choice – especially not the same lawmakers whose irresponsible policies over the past decade created the very crisis that collapsed the job market in the first place.
“And second, unemployment insurance works. It helps our economy recover.
“Mark Zandi – who was Senator McCain’s economic adviser in the 2008 campaign – calculated that every time a dollar goes out in an unemployment check, $1.61 comes back into the economy. The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that number could actually be as high as two dollars, meaning we double our investment.
“And if you think about it, it makes sense. Nobody is getting rich off of $300 unemployment checks. And nobody keeps those checks under his mattress. These Americans turn around and spend the money. They immediately pay their bills and go to the store and keep up with their mortgage payments.
“They spend it on the basics and the bare necessities while they look for work. The money goes right back into the economy, which strengthens it, fuels growth and ultimately lets businesses create the very jobs the unemployed have been looking for, for so long.
“The people we’re trying to help want to find work. They’re trying to find work. And they’d much rather get a paycheck than an unemployment check.
“Nevadans like Scott Headrick – who lost his job two years ago this month and who has tried tirelessly to find a new one – is just one of the millions who need our help. Democrats aren’t going to turn our backs on him.
“He sends out résumés and goes to job interviews, but for months and months he’s heard nothing but ‘no.’ What a shame it is that he’s hearing the same from Republicans in the Senate.”