The Senate approved another short-term extension of unemployment benefits yesterday by a vote of 59 to 39 (roll call). The bill also extends COBRA benefits (related to keeping your health insurance after leaving your job) and delays a planned cut in Medicare reimbursement rates for doctors. (Click here for the text of the bill. Iowa’s senators split, with Tom Harkin voting yes and Chuck Grassley voting no, as did all but three Republican senators.
The House of Representatives quickly passed the bill as amended by the Senate. The bill had more bipartisan support in the House, with 49 Republicans joining 240 Democrats (roll call). However, Republicans Tom Latham (IA-04) and Steve King (IA-05) voted with the majority of the GOP caucus against the extension. I guess they don’t think the thousands of long-term unemployed in their districts need the extra help. King has previously spoken out against extending jobless benefits, which in his view are becoming a “hammock” instead of a safety net. Iowa Democrats Bruce Braley (IA-01), Dave Loebsack (IA-02) and Leonard Boswell (IA-03) all voted for the bill. After the jump I’ve posted a statement from Loebsack’s office about this legislation.
President Barack Obama signed the bill last night, but Congress will revisit this issue soon, because the new law extends unemployment benefits only until June 2 and other measures through the end of May.
Statement of April 15, 2010:
Congressman Loebsack: After 29 Days, Bipartisan Unemployment Insurance Bill Finally Being Sent to President
Hold on Unemployment Benefits Jeopardized Compensation for 65,000 Iowans
WASHINGTON DC – Today, Congressman Loebsack voted to extend unemployment compensation and a range of essential programs for American families. In an increasingly broken process, unemployment insurance for 65,000 Iowans was jeopardized as a handful of politically motivated individuals worked to score political points at the expense of everyday Americans struggling in the current economic downturn. Today, the measure was finally approved by the Senate 29 days after the U.S. House of Representatives originally passed the extension and 10 days after unemployment benefits lapsed.
“I grew up in poverty and know what it is like to pinch every penny,” said Loebsack. “Unemployment is in double digits in some parts of Iowa and families are hurting. A handful of politically motivated individuals attempting to score political points on an issue that to some families literally means the difference between buying groceries or paying the bills is endemic of what is wrong in Washington.”
The U.S. House of Representatives originally passed the unemployment extension on March 17th. Despite receiving the bill on March 18th, the U.S. Senate did not approve the measure until today. A few partisans used procedural impediments to prevent action on this important issue, allowing the benefits to lapse for 10 days. The bill takes steps to issue compensation retroactively.
Extending unemployment insurance provides immediate stimulus to local economies. The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office has cited unemployment benefits as one of the most cost-effective forms of economic stimulus, and every dollar spent on unemployment benefits generates $1.63 in new demand, according to Moody’s chief economist Mark Zandi.
In addition to unemployment benefits, this legislation extends COBRA health care subsidies, prevents Medicare physician payments from being cut, assures that satellite television consumers can continue to receive services, extends the National Flood Insurance Program, extends improvements to the Small Business Administration’s loan program, prevents harmful changes to the federal poverty guidelines, and expresses opposition to the value added-tax.