Senate Democrats vow continued push to extend unemployment insurance

Senate Democrats say they will keep pressing to extend long-term jobless insurance in the weeks to come, even if a scheduled Monday vote falls short.

ADVERTISEMENT
Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidAmendments fuel resentments within Senate GOP Donald Trump is delivering on his promises and voters are noticing Danny Tarkanian wins Nevada GOP congressional primary MORE (D-Nev.) and other Democrats say they remain optimistic – if cautiously so – that they’ll be able to pick off five GOP senators to back the three-month extension that hits the floor on Monday.

“It would seem to me that five Republicans in the Senate should agree with Republicans around the country,” Reid said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”

But Democrats, who clearly see unemployment insurance – and income inequality in general – as a political winner this election year, say the issue will remain at the forefront, regardless.

“The rich are getting richer, the poor are getting poorer, and the middle class is being squeezed out of existence,” Reid added.

Sen. Chuck SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerDems must stop picking foxes to guard the financial hen house Schumer warns 'House moderates' against immigration compromise bill Trump knocks Schumer, touts North Korea summit in early morning tweet MORE (D-N.Y.) told reporters on a conference call Sunday that if Republicans blocked an unemployment insurance extension, it would “place them far out of the mainstream.”

“We will come back at this issue,” said Schumer, who also repeated his assertion from ABC’s “This Week” that it was “insulting” for Republicans to say that extended jobless insurance acted as a disincentive for people to search for jobs.

Sen. Jeanne ShaheenCynthia (Jeanne) Jeanne ShaheenAmerica will not forget about Pastor Andrew Brunson Shaheen sidelined after skin surgery Members of Congress demand new federal gender pay audit MORE (D-N.H.) added that unemployment insurance has been a bipartisan issue in the past, including during George W. Bush’s administration.

“This is an issue that’s always had broad, bipartisan support,” Shaheen said on the conference call. “So it’s surprising that there’s not that kind of bipartisan support, or at least it’s not clear there will be, to continue this.”

Long-term jobless insurance expired for more than 1 million people in the U.S. at the end of last year. Senate Democrats, pushing a bill from Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.), are seeking to extend benefits for three months, at the cost of roughly $6 billion.

But Sen. Dean Heller (Nev.) is the only Republican in the chamber to sign on to the bill, which does not include any offsets. Most GOP lawmakers who have sounded open to extending the insurance, which costs roughly $25 billion a year, want it to be paid for.

In the meantime, Democrats suggested they’re especially targeting GOP senators whose states have high unemployment rates – with Reed singling out Arizona, Georgia and Tennessee, all states that have two Republican senators.

One of those Republicans, Sen. Lamar Alexander (Tenn.), suggested Sunday that he wouldn't back the extension scheduled to hit the floor this week.

“I will not vote to bring this legislation to the floor unless senators have an opportunity to debate and vote on the many good ideas for helping unemployed Americans find a job," said Alexander, who has been known to reach across the aisle to work with Democrats.

"Unfortunately, the Senate appears to be starting the new year just like the old one ended, with the Democratic leader bypassing committee consideration and cutting off all amendments and debate on an important issue.”

Democrats added that Republicans will come under more pressure to extend the benefits in the weeks to come, as more and more stories come out about former workers struggling to get by.

“More and more senators, I believe, will hear from those people,” Sen. Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownTrump surprises with consumer agency pick On The Money — Sponsored by Prudential — Trump nominates budget official Kraninger for consumer chief | Senate votes to block Trump ZTE deal | Stocks fall on trade tensions | House panel moves to markup budget Dems must stop picking foxes to guard the financial hen house MORE (D-Ohio) said on the Sunday conference call.