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Republicans Have Lost Touch Over Six Years

“We cannot let them down” on Unemployment Benefits - President Bush, 2002

On two critical votes this week, more than 70 percent of House Republicans sided with President Bush - and against unemployment benefits for 3.8 million Americans struggling to find work. Nearly one in five unemployed Americans have been looking for work more than 26 weeks, costs of daily life are rising, and the American economy is at the brink of recession.  

White House Press Secretary Dana Perino said “…no administration has increased or extended unemployment benefits while unemployment was this low.” [Detroit News, 6/7/08]  The White House Statement of Administration Policy said “although the unemployment rate has recently risen, it remains below the levels historically relied on to justify a federally financed extension of unemployment benefits.”

Let's Look at Some History:

President Bush himself proposed an extension of unemployment benefits in the fall of 2001 at a time when the national rate was 4.9 percent--0.6 percentage points lower than last month. 

President Bush signed the law creating federal extended benefits in March 2002, when long-term unemployment was lower (15.9%) than it is today (18.3%). At the time the President said “… many laid off workers have been relying on unemployment benefits, which normally end after 26 weeks.  The bill I sign this morning will allow the extension of jobless benefits by another 13 weeks, and even longer in states with high unemployment rates.  This will allow those who lost their jobs in the recession, or in the aftermath of the September the 11th attacks more time to pay their bills and support their families while they look for work.” [President Bush, 3/9/02]

President Bush pushed to extend those federal unemployment benefits at the end of 2002 saying, “no final bill was sent to me extending unemployment benefits for about 750,000 Americans whose benefits will expire on December 28th. These Americans rely on their unemployment benefits to pay for the mortgage or rent, food, and other critical bills. They need our assistance in these difficult times, and we cannot let them down.” [President Bush radio Address, 12/14/02]

What are the Consequences of Republicans Blocking UI?

The President pushed to help 750,000 Americans looking for work in 2002.  This year, he has stood in the way of the same benefit for an estimated 3.8 million Americans.

Democrats first pushed for an extension of unemployment benefits in January, as we were negotiating the stimulus package.  By blocking an extension of unemployment benefits since January, the President and Congressional Republicans have forced 1.2 million workers, who have exhausted benefits since January, to manage without any unemployment assistance in the face of rising prices.