Senate Republicans Stall Extension Of Jobless Aid
MICHELE NORRIS, host:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.
MELISSA BLOCK, host:
I'm Melissa Block.
And we begin this hour with unemployment benefits. The House of Representatives voted this afternoon to extend benefits to out-of-work Americans for six months, but the measure is stalled in the Senate in a fight over deficits. Since that fight began around Memorial Day, more than a million people have had their unemployment checks cut off.
And NPR's David Welna reports that the stall will continue as Congress leaves town for the holiday recess.
DAVID WELNA: Benefits for the unemployed have been extended in both Democratic and Republican administrations, and almost always it's been emergency spending that added to budget deficits. But congressional Republicans are now insisting any extension be paid for.
House Democrat John Lewis of Georgia challenged Republicans today to tell that to those losing their benefits.
Representative JOHN LEWIS (Democrat, Georgia): Tell them as they swallow their pride that you don't care, that you don't have a heart, that you don't have any feeling. Explain to them why you voted yes for war funding and yes for a tax break for the rich but no for hardworking Americans who have lost their jobs through no fault of their own. It is wrong, just plain wrong.
WELNA: Michigan Republican Dave Camp blamed the expiration of jobless benefits on Democrats who refuse to cut $34 billion worth of spending elsewhere to pay for the extension.
Representative DAVE CAMP (Republican, Michigan): I support, and Republicans have supported, extending unemployment benefits. But we must not do so at a cost to the deficit, to the economy and to future generations.
WELNA: The House easily passed the six-month extension, though only 29 Republicans voted for it. North Carolina Republican Virginia Foxx, who voted no, accused Democrats of trying to score political points.
Representative VIRGINIA FOXX (Republican, North Carolina): This bill is going nowhere, and they know it. They want to be able to go home and say we voted to extend unemployment benefits and that Republicans voted no.
WELNA: Senate Democrats did leave town last night after failing to break a GOP filibuster of the unemployment bill. While acknowledging that, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the House acted today for the jobless.
Representative NANCY PELOSI (Democrat, California; Speaker of the House): I would help to offer them some hope that when we come back we will pass that. They lost by one vote. There will be one more vote in the Senate that I think will be supportive of it.
WELNA: The body of the man whose vote might have made a big difference last night was carried into the Senate chamber today by an honor guard.
Unidentified Man: Ready. Step.
WELNA: The death of West Virginia's Robert Byrd earlier this week is what left fellow Democrats a vote short last night. One Democrat, Nebraska's Ben Nelson, joined the GOP filibuster and just two Republicans, both from Maine, voted to break it.
West Virginia Governor Joe Manchin is expected to appoint another Democrat soon to replace Byrd. That might end the logjam holding up jobless benefits.
David Welna, NPR News, the Capitol.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.