Commentary: The Senate’s Shameful Vote on Unemployment Benefits

Senate Republicans’ failure to sufficiently support an extension to unemployment benefits reveals a continued callousness.

Posted: 02/07/2014 03:44 PM EST
Commentary: The Senate’s Shameful Vote on Unemployment Benefits

In one of the more shameful moments in the United States Senate, that body this week failed to approve of a three-month extension of unemployment benefits that would assist more than 1 million Americans.

In a vote largely along party lines, 59 senators – including four Republicans – voted to move the legislation forward. That was one vote short of the 60 votes necessary to break a Republican filibuster.

It is another example of how the Republicans in Congress are wildly out of touch with the needs of average Americans. This was not a vote on providing some charitable giving. This was a vote to provide continued assistance to Americans who have worked for years, paid federal taxes and contributed to the nation’s economy.

It again portrays a callousness of Republicans toward Americans who are unemployed and who have been searching relentlessly for employment in an economy that has not yet produced enough jobs to meet the current demand.

The Republicans who voted in opposition to the measure did so because they did not feel assured that the proponents had not sufficiently determined how to offset the $6 billion cost of the three-month extension of benefits.

But an irritated Harry Reid, the majority leader of the Democratic-controlled Senate, said: “We’ve given them everything they wanted. Paid for,” he added, referring to his Republican counterparts in the Senate.

Once again, the Republicans have demonstrated how out of touch they are with the needs of their fellow citizens. Moreover, they seem not to understand how measures like providing unemployment benefits and increasing the minimum wage would provide a needed jolt to the nation’s economy. People who have an income – even the small amount that comes with unemployment benefits – buy food, purchase goods and pay bills, all of which contribute to the nation’s fiscal well-being.

They seem to be following the sentiment of Senator Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky.
"I'm not against having unemployment insurance," Senator Paul said on a television interview last month. "I do think, though, that the longer you have it, that it does provide some disincentive to work and that there are many studies that indicate this."

He seems to ignore the fact that those unemployed Americans have already worked and are heavily engaged in the often disappointing struggle to find jobs. It is stunning how little regard Senator Paul and his Republican colleagues have for the determination and resolve of American workers. The whole nation would benefit from a little more compassion by the Republicans in Congress.  

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Follow Jonathan Hicks on Twitter: @HicksJonathan

(Photo: Susan Walsh/AP Photo)

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