Reid Remarks On The Need To Extend Unemployment Benefits

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“Bush extended emergency unemployment insurance five times. Not one of those five times did Republicans ask him to offset the cost. It wasn’t right to offset the cost when Bush was President, and it’s not right to offset the cost now that President Obama is in the White House.”

“But since many Republican Senators are insisting that the cost be offset, I am happy to negotiate a long-term extension of emergency unemployment benefits as long as it is paid for in a reasonable way. It’s been a week since families already hanging on by a thread were kicked off unemployment insurance… Those families cannot wait any longer for relief.”

 “Middle-class Americans are hurting… What beleaguered Americans need is not a memo on basic human decency or a bitter diatribe about the rules of the Senate. They need solutions.”

Washington, D.C. – Nevada Senator Harry Reid spoke on the Senate floor today regarding the importance of extending emergency unemployment benefits. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:

Another day has passed, and the vast majority of Republican Senators still stand in the way of extended unemployment benefits. But I understand that some Republican Senators are having productive conversations about possible offsets for a full-year extension of unemployment insurance benefits.

I repeat: I am personally opposed to offsetting the cost of emergency unemployment benefits. President Bush extended emergency unemployment insurance five times. Not one of those five times did Republicans ask him to offset the cost. It wasn’t right to offset the cost when Bush was President, and it’s not right to offset the cost now that President Obama is in the White House.

We’ve cut the deficit in half since President Obama took office.  And while we must keep up the good work, we must also solve the nation’s jobs crisis if we ever hope to solve its fiscal problems. Today’s long-term unemployment rate is more than double what it was at any other time Congress let emergency jobless assistance expire. But since many Republican Senators are insisting that the cost be offset, I am happy to negotiate a long-term extension of emergency unemployment benefits as long as it is paid for in a reasonable way.

It’s been a week since families already hanging on by a thread were kicked off unemployment insurance. For many, those benefits were the only thing preventing them from descending into poverty or even becoming homeless. Those families cannot wait any longer for relief. And I am optimistic that my Republican colleagues will find a way to put people first and partisanship second.

But on Tuesday, House Republican leaders were forced to send a message to their members reminding them to be compassionate toward unemployed workers. Yesterday afternoon, the Republican Leader spoke in this chamber for almost 45 minutes. Not once did he utter the words “jobs,” “economy” or “unemployment.”

Middle-class Americans are hurting. Many have lost their jobs. Many more have taken part time work or a second job just to get by. And the rest have watched their wages shrink at the same time the richest few have tripled their income. What beleaguered Americans need is not a memo on basic human decency or a bitter diatribe about the rules of the Senate.

They need solutions. For 1.3 million Americans today – and 5 million Americans over the course of this year – extending emergency unemployment benefits is a solution. Raising the minimum wage so a mother or father working two jobs can afford the rent and the electric bill in the same month is a solution. Investing in job creation and education, so today’s workers can compete for tomorrow’s jobs, is a solution. And whenever my Republican colleagues are prepared to stop complaining and start working with Democrats to create solutions, we’ll be right here waiting.

 

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