The Senate has once again failed to extend unemployment insurance for nearly two million Americans who have been without coverage since December.
The Democrats needed five Republican votes to carry the measure. Only four voted in favor of the extension. The cloture motion failed with 58 votes to 40.
Senator Cory Brooker of New Jersey was scathing in his indictment of the lack of support the Republicans have shown for the long-term unemployed:
“Because of the inaction of one person today there’s a family, thousands of families who are going to miss mortgage payments and send their lives into economic chaos.”
It is estimated that 1.7 million Americans have been without unemployed benefits since the Emergency Unemployment Compensation program lapsed on December 28th of last year. Even if the Democrats do eventually strong-arm the Republicans in the Senate into passing an extension, the GOP-controlled House has shown little appetite for following suit.
In an appeal to particularly fiscally conservative Republicans, the Democrats threw in an extra inducement: those who had earned over $1 million in the previous year would not be eligible for the program. There is currently no cut-off in terms of how much a person needed to have been making previously.
Senator Dick Durbin (D-IlL) said that the Republican leadership’s continued refusal to pass the extension despite numerous inducements and incentives, as well as the necessity of helping millions of unemployed Americans, was revealing:
“The real reason the [Republican] political leaders in the Senate want to stop unemployment benefits is they believe unemployed people are lazy.”
The leader of the Democratic Party in the Senate, Harry Reid of Nevada, said that the Party would not give up its fight to reinstate the program. He cited the case of a 57-year old resident of his state who, since losing her insurance, has been made homeless and is currently couch-surfing:
“She couldn’t pay her rent. I hadn’t heard the term, some of the younger people probably have — she’s been couch-surfing. She’s been going from friend to friend to sleep on their couch. She said, ‘How do you think it makes me feel?’ We want the 57-year-old in Nevada to stop couch surfing and find a job.”