Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said Wednesday that he wouldn’t give up on passing a short-term extension of unemployment insurance.
On Tuesday, Republicans blocked Democrats from holding an up-or-down vote on a three-month extension of jobless benefits for 1.3 million people that would have cost $6.4 billion.
Reid blasted Republicans for trying to appear sympathetic to the unemployed but failing to allow the Senate to act to help.
“My Republican colleagues ignore the needs of these hard working Americans at their own peril,” Reid said.
On Dec. 28, 1.3 million people lost their long-term unemployment benefits. Senate Democrats put forward a three-month extension that wasn’t paid for, but when Republicans complained about the cost, Democrats tried to get a vote on an 11-month deal that was fully paid for by extending sequestration for another year.
Republicans then complained that Reid wasn’t allowing amendments, but the majority leader said he offered Republicans 10 amendments.
“Democrats agreed to vote on at least 20 amendments. ... [Republicans] again refused,” Reid said. “So unless Democrats agree to unlimited, unrelated amendments, Republicans would block the legislation.”
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Reid’s amendment offer wasn’t good enough because each amendment would have been held to a 60-vote threshold. He accused Democrats of setting the cloture vote up for failure to score political points.
“We’ll get back to that bill. It’s a very important bill,” McConnell said after Reid spoke on the Senate floor. “It’s just the latest example of Senate Democrats putting politics over policy.”
Reid also said that after the Senate deals with a massive omnibus spending bill aimed at keeping the government funded through Oct. 1, senators would begin work on a flood insurance bill.
S. 1926 is a bipartisan proposal from Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) that would delay flood insurance rate hikes until the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) studies the affordability of planned increases. Under the bill, FEMA would also have to certify that it has accurately charted the correct levels of flood risk in areas that participate in the National Flood Insurance Program.