Congress Fails to Act as Thousands Collect Their Last Unemployment Checks readers: Congress misses urgency during unemployment benefit debate.

ByABC News
October 9, 2009, 6:54 PM

Oct. 9, 2009 — -- The House of Representatives voted on an extension of unemployment benefits 17 days ago, but today the Senate failed to pass a bill of its own.

In those two weeks the Senate has failed to act, an estimated 200,000 Americans have lost a lifeline.

Many who contacted said lawmakers are missing the emergency.

"I wonder if the senators of this great country ever wake up worrying about how to pay their electric bill or feed their family. I do," said Todd Bowling.

"I expect my landlord today. I expect him to come here today and demand the rent. And I don't have anything. I don't know what to tell him," said Yvonne Shine.

While the Senate debates how generous the extension should be, those who have lost their safety net are asking why lawmakers seem to have so many other priorities.

"Do they not see we're dying out here?" asked Jonathan Brewster.

In the time since the House voted to extend benefits, the Senate has kept busy -- with other bills. Senators marked up a major health care reform bill, passed $636 billion in defense spending, passed $32 billion to fund the Department of Interior, and $4.6 billion to fund Congress itself -- including a pay raise for House and Senate staffers.

Denise Filcek of Springfield, Ohio, pointed out that Congress managed to pass the Cash for Clunkers extension within days.

"And really, what kind of emergency was that? But former hardworking Americans like myself face evictions and home loss," said Filcek.