The House adjourned for the year on Thursday, passing by unanimous consent a resolution that will keep the chamber closed until Jan 3.
House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) showed up for the pro forma session and used the time to rebuke Republicans for leaving town without extending federal unemployment benefits.
“This Congress is the least productive one in which I’ve served over the last 33 years,” Hoyer said on the House floor. “This Congress has earned the disdain of the American people.”
“If I thought objecting to this motion would lead to the extension of unemployment insurance … I would object to this House adjournment with so much of the people’s work undone, but sadly such an objection would have no such effect,” Hoyer said. “We will return in January 2014 urging our Republican colleagues to address the needs of millions of Americans.”
Hoyer criticized Boehner for not bringing comprehensive immigration reform up for a vote and for not completing work on farm bills this year. He also said Congress shouldn’t have left town without extending unemployment insurance benefits, which are set to expire on Saturday.
“I’m here to express mine and the minority’s objection to adjourning this first session of this Congress without extending unemployment insurance,” Hoyer said. “It is both a moral outrage and another congressionally inflicted blow to our economy.”
Nearly 1.3 million people are expected to lose their extended unemployment benefits on Saturday.
Democrats are seizing on the unemployment aid as an issue for the midterm elections and are demanding that Republicans agree to extend it in 2014.
Some Republicans have questioned the need to reauthorize the program, given that unemployment is at a five-year low, while noting the billions of dollars it has already cost the government.
"Does it make sense for our country to borrow money from China to give it to the unemployed in America? That is weakening us as a country," Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) said recently.
The Senate is expected to immediately take up a bill to extend the benefits for three months while lawmakers work toward a longer-term solution. A yearlong reauthorization would cost $25.7 billion and could mean the loss of 200,000 jobs next year if they aren't continued, according to the Congressional Budget Office.