Reid Remarks on the Need to Extend Unemployment Insurance

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“Americans looking for work have been able to rely on unemployment insurance to get them through tough times. But for 1.3 million Americans – including 18,000 Nevadans and 20,000 veterans of this nation’s Armed Forces – that safety net has been yanked away.”

“For many American families, these benefits were the difference between making ends meet and going hungry or becoming homeless. In 2012 alone, unemployment insurance helped 2.5 million people, including 600,000 children, stay out of poverty.”

In the past, Republicans and Democrats have worked together on this issue… I hope Republicans remember that during hard times – during times of high unemployment – regardless of who was in the White House or who led this chamber, Congress has always been willing to put politics aside and put American families first.”

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

 Over the last 45 months America’s private sector has added more than 8 million jobs. The stock market is booming and even the housing market is starting to show signs of life. It is clear that the economy is finally picking up steam.

But for too many Americans, the bright headlines touting good economic news don’t match the darker reality they face as they sit at the kitchen table juggling the household bills. Too many middle-class Americans have watched their paychecks flat line – or shrink – even as the wealthiest people in this country do better and better. And for those who have lost their jobs through no fault of their own, millions of whom have struggled for months to find new work, a buoying stock market or increasing corporate profits are little comfort.

Fortunately, Americans looking for work have been able to rely on unemployment insurance to get them through tough times. But for 1.3 million Americans – including 18,000 Nevadans and 20,000 veterans of this nation’s Armed Forces – that safety net has been yanked away. At the end of last year, Congress failed to extend emergency unemployment insurance for Americans and have been looking for work for more than six months.

For many American families, these benefits were the difference between making ends meet and going hungry or becoming homeless. In 2012 alone, unemployment insurance helped 2.5 million people, including 600,000 children, stay out of poverty. These families live in red states and blue states. They are Republicans, Democrats and Independents. And we can’t turn our backs on them now.

In the past, Republicans and Democrats have worked together on this issue. We have reached out a hand to hard-working Americans struggling to get by. In fact, President Bush signed the latest round of emergency assistance into effect. At the time, the unemployment rate was 5.6 percent, more than a point lower than it is today.

I was pleased that my Republican colleague from Nevada, Senator Heller, joined the senior Senator from Rhode Island and a Democrat, Senator Reed, to introduce a three-month extension of emergency unemployment insurance. Today’s long-term unemployment rate is more than double what it was at any other time Congress has let emergency jobless assistance expire. Senator Heller understands this.

But I am troubled that most of Senator Heller’s Republican colleagues seem ready to callously turn their backs on the long-term unemployed. I hope a few more reasonable Republicans will join Democrats to move this crucial legislation forward today.

Failing to restore emergency assistance would not only be a crushing blow to the long-term unemployed, it would be a blow to our economy. Americans use their unemployment benefits to buy food and fuel at local gas stations, to pay the landlord or to purchase a child a winter coat at a local department store. That’s why for every $1 we spend on unemployment insurance, the economy grows by $1.50. This investment in our fellow Americans is one of the most effective ways to spark and sustain an economic recovery.

Last night the senior Senator from Texas, a Republican, asked that we delay this vote on this legislation until today. Senator Cornyn called this “a serious issue.” He’s right.

It is serious to the scores of Nevadans who have written and called my office, begging for a little more time to find work. It is serious to Democrats, who stand united in support of this extension. I hope Senate Republicans take it seriously as well. And I hope Republicans remember that during hard times – during times of high unemployment – regardless of who was in the White House or who led this chamber, Congress has always been willing to put politics aside and put American families first.

 

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