Unemployment Filibuster Broken
New West VA Senator Helps Democrats Advance Unemployment Benefits
July 20, 2010— -- Boosted by the swearing-in of new West Virginia Sen. Carte Goodwin, the Senate today voted to restore and extend jobless benefits for the long-term unemployed, ending a lengthy stalemate.
By a vote of 60-40 the Senate succeeded in passing the jobless aid measure just minutes after Goodwin formally became a member of the Senate. Democratic Senators in the chamber erupted in applause when Goodwin cast the decisive vote.
For weeks the Senate had been locked in a standoff on helping the nation's jobless, with both parties supporting an extension of the benefits but disagreeing on how to pay for them. Democrats argued that helping 2.5 million unemployed Americans is an emergency as the country rebounds from recession, but Republicans balked at the bill's $34 billion price tag, contending that adding tens of billions of dollars to the government's soaring deficit is fiscally irresponsible.
Republicans failed on four occasions to offset the cost of the bill with funds from the government's massive stimulus program, while Democrats struck out five times in their attempts to pass the measure. Two Republicans -- Maine Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins -- today sided with Democrats, while Nebraska Democrat Ben Nelson backed the GOP's approach.
But with Goodwin's swearing-in on Tuesday afternoon, Senate Democrats finally had the votes they needed to pass the long-sought extension. The jobless aid bill still has to be passed by the House of Representatives, but that is expected to happen later this week.
Earlier this week President Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid both blasted Republicans for blocking the jobless help.
"Many on the other side don't see this as an emergency," Reid said on the Senate floor Monday. "They look at a crisis for families' budgets and see an opportunity for their political fortunes. They think when unemployment goes up, so do their poll numbers."
With 2.5 million people now affected by the lapse in jobless benefits 49 days ago, Reid argued that it was long overdue for the Senate stalemate to end.