Sen. Booker Calls Failure to Extend Unemployment Benefits "Unacceptable"

The New Jersey lawmaker says the fight to help jobless individuals and their families is not over.

Posted: 02/06/2014 05:55 PM EST

In his maiden speech delivered on the Senate floor earlier this week, a hopeful Cory Booker quoted hometown hero Bruce Springsteen to urge his colleagues to pass a three-month extension of unemployment benefits. The benefit expired on Dec 31, cutting off 1.3 Americans, which has now grown to more than 1.7 million.

"When times are tough, as the great New Jersey poet sings, 'We take care of our own,'" Booker said.

Just three days later, the visibly frustrated junior senator lambasted Republicans for once again blocking the legislation from moving forward. And the thing that really had him hopping mad is that just one more Republican vote was needed to end debate and vote on the extension. 

"We stood one vote away. One person stands between families in America having relief from stress, from strain, from the agony of uncertainty and having a little something to bridge them forward as they look for a job," Booker said at a press conference after the procedural motion failed.

Because of one lawmaker's "inaction," he said, thousands of families will have to make "impossible decisions" about whether they'll be able to pay the mortgage, a co-payment required to see a doctor or simply afford the basics, which he finds "profoundly unacceptable."

Where is the compassion, he and other Democratic lawmakers asked today.

"We are better than this as a country. We stand for more than this as a country," Booker said. "The fight's not over."

The cold reality, however, is that even if the extension had passed the Senate, getting it through the Republican-led House may be an even bigger uphill battle. House Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions (R-Texas) said Tuesday that it would be “immoral” to extend benefits to the long-term unemployed and that Democrats should focus instead on working with the GOP to create jobs.

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(Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

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