It’s been nearly three months since congressional Republicans allowed extended unemployment benefits to lapse, despite independent warnings that this would cost the national economy hundreds of thousands of jobs. Since then Senate Democrats have brought multiple extensions to the floor for a vote, but in each instance, the bills failed due to Republican filibusters.
The most recent attempt, which came a month ago tomorrow, came one vote shy of success. Proponents hope the fourth time will be the charm.
Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, said Wednesday that he will need to “pull out all the stops” to get enough GOP support for a 6-month extension to unemployment benefits that could come up for a vote next week.“I have to pull out all the stops to try to pick up another Republican vote, it’s not Democrats I have to worry about,” he said. “It’s getting the Republicans to allow these millions of people who are desperate long-term unemployed a shot in the arm.”
Weather in the nation’s capital has affected the calendar, but Reid’s office expects a vote next week, either Wednesday or Thursday.
For those struggling to find jobs, every day counts. About 1.3 million Americans lost their benefits when the GOP opposed an extension a few days after Christmas, and 72,000 more are added to that total per week.
Why will the latest Democratic effort succeed where the others failed?
It’s certainly possible that it won’t.
Lawmakers leading the effort are now trying to build a new compromise – a six-month extension of the program that would be applied retroactively to December 28, when the benefits expired. The measure would be paid for with savings from the farm bill.Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., placed the bill on the Senate calendar Tuesday evening, which is the first step toward bringing it up for a vote. Senate leaders still need to resolve whether amendments will be allowed to the legislation – a sticking point that killed the effort last month.“If we are not able to offer amendments, then there is now way that this is ever going to pass,” Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, one of the Republicans working with Democrats on the issue, told CBS News. “It’s just not right. Many of us think that there needs to significant reforms.”
As of yesterday, Reid is reportedly prepared to allow votes on at least four Republican amendments, though whether they would need 50 or 60 votes is unclear. It’s also unclear if Republicans will consider the total sufficient.
If the Senate majority can somehow satisfy conservatives’ demands enough to get a vote, and if the bill can somehow pass, it would still require House action – and by any fair estimate, the bill would face long odds in the lower chamber.
But for now, proponents are taking it one chamber at a time.