Congress Stalled As 2 Million Lose Jobless Benefits When members of Congress return from their Fourth of July break Monday, they'll find a big challenge waiting for them right where they left it. The issue is unemployment -- specifically an extension of benefits for people who've lost their jobs. The debate has turned into a high-stakes, election-year stand-off over deficits.
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Congress Stalled As 2 Million Lose Jobless Benefits

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Congress Stalled As 2 Million Lose Jobless Benefits

Congress Stalled As 2 Million Lose Jobless Benefits

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LYNN NEARY, Host:

David, welcome to the show.

DAVID WELNA: Thanks, Lynn.

NEARY: So, David, this bill has been stalled since before Memorial Day. What's going on here? What's the problem?

WELNA: Take a listen here to Massachusetts Republican Scott Brown on the Senate floor shortly before he voted to block consideration of an extension, which he said he wanted paid for now.

SCOTT BROWN: Taking into consideration not burdening future generations. Some of them are sitting right here. And it will allow us to provide for the needs of our citizens without putting more debt on the credit card. Once again, it's the checking account versus the credit card.

WELNA: Of course, Democrats point out that Brown and 11 other Republicans had no problem approving $33 billion worth of funding for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that also wasn't paid for.

NEARY: Well, how do Democrats justify adding another $34 billion to what is already a trillion-dollar-plus deficit this year?

WELNA: But they also make an economic argument. They say this is no time for austerity measures by cutting back on other spending. And as Majority Leader Harry Reid pointed out recently, the money that's paid out for unemployment benefits gets spent immediately, and that spurs $1.60 worth of economic activity for every dollar that's spent.

HARRY REID: These are monies that are creating jobs. We are doing something that is very American, very American, and that is helping people at a time of emergency.

NEARY: So with this political standoff, David, do people who've exhausted the usual 26 weeks of unemployment benefits have any hope of getting their safety net extended?

WELNA: Well, possibly. Democrats are just one vote short of the 60 they'd need to break the GOP filibuster. And they're pinning their hopes on getting that vote with the replacement for the late West Virginia Democrat Robert Byrd, and that person could be appointed in the next week or so. But until that happens, they're still a vote short.

NEARY: Thanks so much, David.

WELNA: You're welcome, Lynn.

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