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House Passes Extension of Unemployment Benefits

Washington, D.C. - Speaker Nancy Pelosi spoke on the House floor this afternoon in support of legislation to extend unemployment benefits to millions of Americans, which passed the House by a vote of 272 to 152.  The legislation passed the Senate yesterday evening, and it will be sent today to President Obama for his signature into law. Below are the Speaker's remarks. 

“Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I thank the gentleman for yielding.  I thank him for bringing this important legislation to the floor today.  And indeed, there is some good news in it, but there is some not so good news in it as well. 

“I listened very attentively to the previous speaker talk about why this unemployment benefits had to be paid for, and I was struck by the inconsistency in his remarks and that of the Republicans in the United States Senate and in the House of Representatives.  It is important to note that while they demand that these benefits be paid for, $34 billion, $34 billion in unemployment benefits going to those who have played by the rules, worked hard, who are unemployed through no fault of their own.  $34 billion which injected into the economy will indeed create jobs while they have said that $700 billion of tax cuts for the wealthiest people in America shouldn't be paid for.  Inconsistent is the politest word I can use to describe that.  $34 billion for those who have lost their jobs through no fault of their own. 

“Last week, the Economic Policy Institute released a report making clear that not only do unemployment benefits protect those who have lost their jobs through no fault of their own, but they would lead to more jobs, higher wages, and a stronger economy for all Americans.  And why is that so?  That is so because these benefits are given to people who need them.  The money will be spent immediately on necessities, injecting demand into the economy, creating jobs.  In fact, the Economic Policy Institute figured that would be 1.4 million jobs relating to the unemployment benefits that are out there now.  The Congressional Budget Office, which is independent and non-partisan, has confirmed that extending unemployment benefits is the most efficient way for the government to generate economic growth. 

“Now I know why the gentleman may want to change the subject to other things.  He mentions Katrina.  We all supported Katrina--did anybody talk about paying for that emergency?  No.  It was an emergency.  We have a contract with the American people in time of a natural disaster, even though that disaster was exacerbated by cronyism in the Bush Administration.  But let's not go there.  Let's just stay on this subject. 
“And the subject at hand is when this bill was introduced today, this resolution, I am sure you all heard that it was an amendment to an amendment.  Well, the Senate amendment that we are voting on, well the amendment that they put in took out the jobs initiatives.  And those initiatives were paid for.  Build America Bonds--that was part of the original bill to build the infrastructure of America and highways and infrastructure of America in a new, green way creating new, green jobs and new green technology.  And to build American jobs that went beyond those investments.  FMAP--to stabilize our state economies.  30 states have written their budgets already on the basis of this funding being in the legislation and paid for, not increasing the deficit.  We passed it in December.  The Senate only now is sending it back to us because the Republicans have objected to that and the amendment to the amendment eliminates that stability for states. 

“Summer jobs--well it is too late to have summer jobs, right?  So youth jobs.  In December we passed a bill for summer jobs for America's youth.  The amendment to the amendment takes out those too.  And they were paid for. 

“Because on the one hand they say everything has to be paid for.  Well when it's paid for are they just plain opposed to jobs for summer, summer jobs for youth?  Are they opposed to Build America Bonds to grow our economy and meet the needs of our country infrastructure wise?  The housing trust fund--very, very important initiative. 

“Concurrent receipt.  I don't think there is any doubt that every person in this Congress supports our veterans.  One issue that is a high priority for America's veterans when we meet with them on a regular basis is the issue of concurrent receipt.  You may not be familiar with that term, but it is a disability tax on our veterans.  And with so many veterans returning home with disabilities from Iraq and Afghanistan, this is very, very important.  It was in the bill.  It was paid for.  Again, money given to people who need it for necessities who would spend it, inject demand into the economy and create jobs.  So the amendment to the amendment that the Senate Republicans finally would let pass in the Senate removed concurrent receipt, paid for, for our veterans. 

“The list goes on and on--a list of paid for initiatives that benefit our veterans, grow our economy, create jobs, help our workers, help our young people, stabilize our states, all paid for.  The Republicans Senators said no.  And they held up this particular amendment to the amendment for over six weeks because they said it had to be paid for at the very same time as they were saying we must pay for the $34 billion for benefits for the unemployed but we don't have to pay for the $700 billion for the wealthiest people in America to have tax cuts.  Those same tax cuts, during the eight years of the Bush Administration did not create jobs.  They increased the deficit.  And the Republicans have said they want to go back to the exact agenda of the Bush Administration.  They look with increased fondness on the Bush agenda and the Bush Administration. 

“Well let me say this here today, the good news about this is finally our unemployed will get their benefits.  It will be retroactive.  It is really sad that it has to come to this.  Non-paid for tax cuts for the rich.  Paid for benefits for our workers.  But it is important to note, contrary to what you might hear from some in this chamber, that in the first eight months of the Bush Administration, excuse me, that in the first eight months of the Obama Administration, more jobs were created, well by the time we finish August, more jobs will have been created than in the eight years of the Bush Administration. 

“While they increased the deficit by trillions of dollars, while we lost jobs, when they took us to a brink of financial crisis of our financial industry, when they took us deep into recession, when they took us deep into deficit, they want to return to the exact same agenda.  We are not going back.  And I step forward into the future, one step into the future is being taken today while we say to American workers: ‘You have played by the rules.  You have worked hard.  You have lost your job through no fault of your own.  You will have these benefits.'  But we must do more to create more jobs. 

“And I urge our colleagues today to understand how important is, the distinction between those who support our workers, respect the contract that we have with them about when the economy ebbs and flows and the cycle of employment and unemployment is not in their favor, that we will be there for them.  And being there for them is not just about them.  It's also about the entire economy.  The economy cannot flourish and be entrepreneurial unless it knows that there is a safety net in case the economy comes down.  The Republicans are saying no to that.  They have said no over and over again, and they are saying no today unless it is paid for.  Again, while they still say: ‘We want tax cuts for the wealthiest.'  $700 billion for 20 times more than this bill for unemployment insurance. 

“But don't forget what they took out of the bill.  And don't forget that that includes concurrent receipts for our veterans.  I urge our colleagues to proudly vote for this legislation.  I commend my colleague, Mr. Levin, for his hard work on this and other legislation.  And I know--because it is absolutely essential--that at some point we will get a jobs bill that will come back from the Senate.  We agree that it should be paid for.  We have sent it over to them paid for.  And  that they will recognize that we need to create jobs, good-paying jobs that take us into the future, and most of all that we are not going back to the failed economic policies of the Bush Administration. 

“I urge a strong ‘aye' vote on both sides of the aisle.”