Democrats break Republican filibuster in Senate and win passage of bill
July 23, 2010 (Washingon D.C.) – President Barack Obama yesterday signed into law legislation to extend unemployment benefits for 2.5 milllion out of work Americans.
The law extends unemployment insurance through November for out-of-work Americans who have not yet exhausted up to 99 weeks of aid. Benefits will be retroactive to late May, when the last extension expired. Benefits vary by state but will average $310 per week.
On July 20, the Senate voted 60-40 to end the Republican filibuster with two GOP votes. In the past, during high unemployment, jobless benefits have received bipartisan support. But Senate Republicans for months blocked this extension of benefits. California Senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein, both Democrats, supported the bill. In the House, San Diego's Democratic representatives Bob Filner and Susan Davis voted in favor of extending unemployment benefits, while Republican Congressmen Duncan Hunter, Darrell Issa, and Brian Bilbray voted no.
“For so many weeks, more than 200,000 Californians have been waiting desperately for this bill to help them through these tough times, and for weeks, Carly Fiorina has said no to these California families," Boxer's campaign manager, Rose Kapolczynski, said of the Republican candidate running against Boxer.
Republicans have argued that the measure will increase the federal deficit and have insisted that Democrats make other budget cuts to pay for helping Americans who have lost their jobs.
Job losses have slowed in recent months and the economy is showing signs of rebounding, but experts agree it will take more time to fully recover from the worst recession since the 1930s.
To obtain passage and win two Republican votes (Maine Senators Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins), Senate Democrats had to drop other unemployment assistance that formerly have helped the unemployed buy health insurance through their former employers, a program that helped 2 million households last year. A tax exemption for the first $2,400 in unemployment aid was also eliminated to woo GOP voters. Nor will aid be extended to those who already received the maximum 99 weeks of aid. Other measures were also stripped to obtain passage of the bare essentials.
According to Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Congress has never allowed extended unemployment benefits to lapse during economic recovery when unemployment rates were above 7.4 percent. Currently, unemployment is hovering near the 10% level nationally. Passage of the measure would increase total unemployment benefit spending to over $130 billion – or roughly equivalent to the one-year $136 billion cost of funding the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.