Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) called out Republicans for filibustering to prevent the extension to unemployment insurance that expired at the end of 2013, leaving over 1.6 million Americans with no income. She called on the Senate to act immediately on behalf of the unemployed – and their 2.3 million dependent children.
Warren admits we are on the “worst economic crisis since the Great Depression” She confronted Republicans with the fact that unemployment extensions happened five times during the Bush administration and that Republicans supported them wholeheartedly. Warren reminded the senators that people cannot collect unemployment insurance unless they can prove that they lost their jobs through no fault of their own and you prove that they are actively looking for work.
Watch Warren in action in the video here. Full transcript below.
The speech is transcribed here in its entirety — because it’s just that good.
[box type=”shadow”]Just 5 years ago middle class families got hammered by the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. These families didn’t cause the crisis. They worked hard and played by the rules but they ended up paying the price for Wall Street’s wild risk taking and Washington’s failed oversight. People lost jobs, lost savings, lost homes. Far too many of them are still struggling.
For these families, every dollar counts. An extra couple of hundred dollars a week can keep food on the table or heat on during cold winter months. It can mean the difference between making the rent or mortgage payment, and being out on the street. That’s what emergency unemployment insurance is for — to give folks a little bit of help that they need to keep their head above water while they search for a job. Unemployment insurance represents our commitment as a country that we’ll pitch in when our friends and neighbors have fallen on rough times, knowing they would do the same for us.
So far, Republicans seem determined to break that commitment. Because of Republican filibusters, 1.6 million Americans and counting have lost access to unemployment insurance since the end of last year, including more than 60 thousand people in Massachusetts. Their obstruction means that we cannot fill our commitment to the families who need it most. My Republican colleagues should be looking for a way to say yes — yes to helping middle class Americans and their 2.3 million children who rely on unemployment insurance. But once again they just want a way to say no. Extending unemployment insurance should be a simple matter. It happened five times during the Bush administration. And not once, not once, did Republicans demand that the costs be offset by cuts or revenue increases elsewhere.
But the Republicans have insisted on a different standard, this time – filibustering because the extension wasn’t offset. Democrats thought this was wrong, but we compromised and we agreed to offset the cost. So did we have a deal? No. Republicans refused to take “Yes” for an answer and filibustered again.
Why would Republicans block the extension of unemployment benefits? some believe that unemployment insurance is actually bad for struggling families. One Republican senator recently said that emergency unemployment insurance does a ‘disservice’ ‘become part of this perpetual unemployed group in our economy’. Last year’s Republican vice presidential nominee, Congressman Ryan, said that federal safety net programs like unemployment insurance are “like a hammock which lulls able-bodied people into lives of complacency and dependency.”
This is an insult to hard-working people across this country, people who are doing their best and cant find a job. This is an insult to people like Terry, a 41-year-old resident of Gardener, Massachusetts, who lost her job last year. Here’s what she wrote to me after Congress let the unemployment insurance program expire. “My employer suddenly let me go and I found myself unemployed for the first time since my very first part-time job at 15. I have been diligently looking for work, applying everywhere, but I haven’t had any job offers.” She writes that unemployment insurance is ”all we have. I’m already on the brink of losing my home, we’re struggling to hang on to what very little we have. I know I am one of 1.3 million faces, but I’m a face from near your home. I’m a face that never thought I’d be in this situation. I’m a face that needs the help of my government services that I have paid into for many, many years. I’m a face that has done everything I am supposed to do but I feel like I have fallen aside and no one sees me. I’m not an abuser of the system. I’m someone who really needs my government to be there for me now. Please see me.”
Terry isn’t looking for a life of complacency and dependency, and she’s not the exception. You can’t get unemployment benefits unless you can prove that you lost your job through no fault of your own and you prove that you are actively looking for work.
Unemployment insurance is a critical lifeline for people who are trying their hardest and need a little help, a little recognition that Wall Street and Washington caused the crisis but Main Street is still paying the price.
And there’s the rub. Republicans line up to protect billions in tax breaks and subsidies for big corporations armies of lobbyists but they can’t find a way to help struggling families get back on their feet. People like Terry are hurting. they worked hard their whole lives and paid into the system, and after the worst economic crisis in generations they are searching for jobs and struggling to stay in the middle class. They’re not looking for a hand out, they are looking for a chance to rebuild their lives. They would be there for us. We should be there for them.[/box]
h/t: Mother Jones