Reid: Republican procedural delay on unemployment brings ‘shame’ to Senate

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) scolded Republicans Wednesday for using a procedural maneuver to delay a vote on extending benefits for the unemployed.

Democrats invoked cloture on the $34 billion measure on Tuesday, but Republicans decided to usethe full 30-hour debate time between the cloture vote and the final vote, which is expected to take place at 9 p.m. Wednesday.

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”This is a dark day in the United States Senate, and some feel it brings shame to this institution. But more than that, it hurts the very people we were sent here to help,” Reid said in a floor speech. “Why would someone in public service do such a thing? Why would they be so callous? Mr. President, I simply don’t know. I am at a loss.”

The measure, which extends for six months jobless benefits to 2.5 million people, is expected to become law as early as Wednesday, but Republicans’ decision to use the debate time angered Senate Democrats.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) did not directly address the unemployment vote in his floor remarks Wednesday morning, but said Democratic policies are killing jobs. 

“As I stand here this morning, millions of Americans are struggling to find jobs — and yet all they see in Washington are Democrats passing massive bills that, at their core, seem to have one thing in common: more job loss,” he said. “It’s almost as if it’s a prerequisite for any Democrat legislation: If it leads to more job loss, they’ll pass it.”

Senate Republicans have argued the measure should be fully paid for so that it does not add to the growing budget deficit. But Democrats have said the $34 billion is necessary emergency spending, and accused Republicans of being hypocritical about fiscal responsibility. 

Reid said that the delay was a cynical ploy by the GOP to win political support.

“Perhaps they think that when unemployment goes up, their poll numbers do too,” he said. “Perhaps they look at such pervasive misfortune and see an opening for their political fortunes.”