Reid Remarks On The Bipartisan Ukraine Aid Package And The Need To Extend Emergency Unemployment Benefits

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“In response to Russia’s destabilizing actions in Ukraine my colleagues and I came to an agreement to vote on the bipartisan Senate Foreign Relations bill this Thursday”

“As the Senate finishes its work on this issue we will soon have the opportunity to show millions of American families that we stand by them, too.”

“For people who have worked hard all their lives, worrying about how to pay the rent, put gas in the car, and buy groceries while they search for a new job, can be demoralizing.”

Washington, D.C. – Nevada Senator Harry Reid spoke on the Senate floor today regarding the bipartisan Ukraine aid package and the need to restore emergency unemployment benefits. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:

The Senate took a step in the right direction yesterday. In response to Russia’s destabilizing actions in Ukraine  my colleagues and I came to an agreement to vote on the bipartisan Senate Foreign Relations bill this Thursday. This important measure not only aids Ukraine but it also punishes President Putin and his cronies for their unlawful aggression. But it also sends the world a clear message, we stand with Ukraine.

As the Senate finishes its work on this issue we will soon have the opportunity to show millions of American families that we stand by them, too. It is my sincere hope  that the bipartisan progress we have just made on this Ukraine legislation  carries over to our work on unemployment insurance. President Lyndon B. Johnson once said that, “the duty of government is to help people who are caught in the tentacles of circumstance.” In our country today you will find no greater example of people at the mercy of unfortunate circumstances than long-term unemployed Americans.

In the three months since Republicans first filibustered a bill to restore emergency benefits almost one million more Americans have lost their benefits. Consider that – in the time that was wasted by the Republican filibuster, almost one million more people in dire need have been told that no help is coming. For people who have worked hard all their lives, worrying about how to pay the rent, put gas in the car, and buy groceries while they search for a new job, can be demoralizing.

And for the long-term unemployed losing $300 a week in unemployment benefits can be the difference between keeping a roof over their childrens’ heads  or homelessness. One Nevada man wrote to me this month to beg Congress to act. His wife has been out of work for nine months. With resources scarce, the family has been forced to choose  between paying the rent or paying for cancer treatments for their two-year-old son. This is what he wrote: “We keep praying that you will do everything in your power to bring back emergency benefits to help us in our most difficult time.”

This father – and millions of Americans like him – has waited too long for action.  But the Senate has another opportunity to do our job  and help these struggling Americans. In the upcoming days, the Senate will consider an agreement  negotiated in good faith by a bipartisan group of committed Senators. This agreement will restore benefits to millions of long-term unemployed Americans looking for work.

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