Bipartisanship: Senate Will Act on Unemployment, Health Care and Housing

By Jacqueline Klingebiel

Oct 4, 2009 11:21am

Two leading Senators showed a brief moment of bipartisanship this morning. Democrat Chuck Schumer and Republican John Cornyn both told me they agree the Senate should pass an extension of unemployment benefits, COBRA, and the $8,000 tax credit for first time homebuyers. Schumer said the Senate would act this week on unemployment benefits.  

But neither Senator would commit to a broader second stimulus. Senator Cornyn told me that the American people are "scared"  that spending and the debt is being "racked up." Schumer said the present stimulus, which so far has only spent 40% of the dollars, is working "so before doing a second stimulus, let's see how the rest of the 60 percent works."
Here's our full exchange:

STEPHANOPOULOS:  How about the broader issue, Senator Cornyn?  Chairman Greenspan says no other stimulus, but the president said yesterday he's going to have his team look at more job creation measures.  Good idea?

CORNYN:  Well, I think the stimulus so far has been unsuccessful in achieving the goals the president set out for it.  He said, with the stimulus, we'd seen 8 percent — no higher than 8 percent unemployment.  And we now see, with 60 percent of the stimulus unspent, that that has not been successful.  We're going to see unemployment over 10 percent. Forty-three cents out of every dollar spent in Washington today is borrowed.  And the American people are justifiably concerned, even scared, that the spending and the debt that's being racked up.  And unfortunately, the health care issue threatens to make matters worse, not — not better.

STEPHANOPOULOS:  So is that your position?

CORNYN:  Well, no.  I think there are things we need to do to help people who need help, like unemployment benefits and the like.  But I think throwing more money at the problem and racking up more and more debt for children and grandchildren is not the answer.

SCHUMER:  Bottom line, we — we have to deal with the pain of people's unemployment now and unemployment benefits.  I'd be for extending COBRA benefits, so…

STEPHANOPOULOS:  And health care?

SCHUMER:  Health care, as well.

STEPHANOPOULOS:  Are you for that?

CORNYN:  I'm for health-care reform, which means that in part what we do is we don't — you don't have to get it from your employer to establish parity, where people get affordable health coverage…

STEPHANOPOULOS:  You haven't extended it to the very people who are unemployed to buy…



CORNYN:  Sure, but COBRA's not really a great solution for a lot of people, because it costs so much money.  So that's part of the overall problem about making it more affordable.

SCHUMER : That’s true…I'd be for extending the housing tax credit, which has helped get the housing market out of the severe depression it was in.  It's getting a little better, has to go more.  But…
STEPHANOPOULOS:  So we have a lot of agreement here.

CORNYN:  Well, Chuck and I agree on a lot of things, but — well, some things. 

STEPHANOPOULOS:  So we have agreement:  extend unemployment benefits, extend health care benefits for people who are unemployed, and extend the housing tax credit.

SCHUMER:  And let me just say one other thing here, broader-term.  The stimulus is working.  The American people see it.  Forty percent has been spent. Before the stimulus, we were losing 700,000, 800,000 jobs a month, a huge amount.  It's going down. The number now is about 300,000.  And Alan Greenspan said, it should turn around soon. So, before doing a second stimulus, let's see how the rest of the 60 percent works and try to deal with the pain of some people in terms of the job front, where John and I agree, and in certain targeted areas of the economy such as housing.

Watch the Full interview HERE.

- George Stephanopoulos

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