Two pieces of news provide a flicker of hope amid the doom and gloom.
WASHINGTON, May 20 -- The office of Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., issued the following news release:
U.S. Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) today took to the Senate floor to criticize Republican leaders in the U.S. House of Representatives who, for the last 43 days, have refused to allow a vote on the bipartisan, Senate-passed unemployment insurance reauthorization. Nearly 2.8 million Americans have already lost emergency unemployment insurance coverage since the program was cutoff on December 28, 2013 and 72,000 additional individuals will continue to lose their coverage for every week the House fails to act.
Reed made the following statement on the Senate floor this afternoon:
"Thank you, Madam President. Madam President, I rise today to again discuss the urgent need to restore emergency unemployment insurance.
Like many Americans, I am hopeful about our future but concerned about how the great recession has impacted our fellow Americans, particularly those who have been hit hardest, the long-term unemployed.
These are good people from all walks of life, from all fifty states. They are people who worked in a variety of fields, from high-tech to manufacturing and from cubicles in offices to plants and factory floors.
Many of them are older and finding themselves out of work for the first time in decades. All of them, all 2.78 million of them, lost out on December 28th of last year.
While they have been out looking for jobs, Congress has failed to do its job and restore unemployment insurance. Previously Congress had never let emergency benefits expire where the long-term unemployment rate is so high.
Today's long-term unemployment rate is 2.2%, and it's still well above the highest rate, 1.3%, of previous expirations. In the past, when the rate was this high for long-term unemployment, we maintained these benefits.
This is still an emergency and we have to maintain these benefits. It still requires our attention and swift, bipartisan action. And to the Senate's credit, there has been bipartisan action.
Thanks to my Republican colleague from Nevada, Senator Dean Heller, and a coalition of 10 U.S. Senators -- five Democrats and five Republicans -- the Senate passed a five-month extension of these vital benefits that would provide aid to job seekers that have been searching for work for more than 26 weeks.
Senators on both sides of the aisle recognize that this is the right thing to do for workers and the smart thing to do for our economy. And so the Senate responded and found a path forward. And it was a difficult path. Majority Leader Harry Reid dedicated a vast amount of floor time. Our bipartisan coalition reached a true compromise and stuck together on vote after vote after vote.
And on April 7, 43 days ago, Madam President, the full Senate approved the measure.
Unfortunately, Speaker Boehner and the House of Representatives and the Republicans in charge there have refused to take up our bipartisan legislation, or pass their own extension of these emergency benefits. Because of their obstruction, millions of Americans are hurting.
Madam President, we need to get our country back to full employment. That's the fundamental answer.
To place people in jobs, we have to move the country to a place where all Americans have an opportunity to earn a living and build a better life for their families.
Some may be tempted to look at the latest unemployment numbers and say, well, see, ending jobless benefits is working because the numbers seem to be falling. But that notion is simply not supported by the facts.
This long-term unemployment problem is still, as I mentioned, of significant proportions and those are precisely the people who benefit from extended unemployment benefits.
A recent study by the Illinois Department of Employment Security found that 4 out of 5 Illinois workers who lost long-term unemployment benefits at the end of last year were still without work two months later. They are still struggling in a very difficult market. And I agree with the director of this state agency, who says -- quote - "economic conditions should determine when this safety net program ends, not an arbitrary date on the calendar."
And the economic conditions for the long-term unemployed are still perilous; it is still an emergency. The Speaker's refusal to renew emergency unemployment insurance makes it even harder for struggling Americans to feed their families and it does nothing to improve our economic outlook.
The Senate-passed bill was fully offset and included, in fact, deficit reduction. So the idea that it was too expensive just doesn't hold water.
The fact that House Republicans are moving $300 billion worth of budget-busting tax breaks, many of which flow to corporations, but refuse to renew emergency benefits for job seekers strikes many people, including myself, as not just an unfair double standard but it's out of step with what we need to do to get this economy moving forward.
Let me again remind everyone, we had a fully paid-for unemployment extension bill on a bipartisan basis that actually resulted in some deficit reduction, and the House has refused to take it up. But in the meantime, they are moving $300 billion worth, over several years, of tax cuts and tax breaks which flow to corporations, all of it unpaid for.
So for the sake of job seekers and our economy, I hope House Republicans will stop obstructing emergency aid to job seekers. They need to take up the bipartisan Senate agreement to restore these benefits and work with us on strengthening our economic recovery.
Just give the bill an up-or-down vote. And give millions of American job seekers a chance to get back on their feet. In fact, I'm confident if there was an up-or-down vote, it would pass the house. It is fiscally responsible, fully paid for, and it provides assistance to people and families who desperately need it and would help the economic climate in every state in this country.
Now, they can attach measures to the bill if they want, that's their prerogative. But let's go ahead and get a bill passed, and if we need to resolve the bill between the House and the Senate, let us do so.
Refusing to vote is irresponsible. The American people deserve better and I hope they will see better in the coming days ahead.
And with that, Madam President, I would yield the floor."