Extending Unemployment Benefits – A Timeline

Fall 2009
On September 22nd, the House passed the Unemployment Compensation Extension Act to provide up to 13 additional weeks of unemployment benefits to workers in high unemployment states who were about to run out of benefits.

Senate Republicans delayed action on this bill for more than a month–leaving 500,000 Americans without unemployment benefits when they needed them the most. The Senate altered the bill and finally passed it unanimously on November 4th which the House passed promptly on November 5th, sending it to the President for his signature into law.

December 2009
On December 16th, the House passed the Jobs for Main Street Act to create or save jobs here at home with targeted investments for key drivers of economic growth that have the most bang for the buck–including a six month extension of unemployment benefits. The Senate did not act on this legislation. In addition, the House passed a two month extension in the Department of Defense Appropriations Act, which the Senate passed on December 19th and the President signed the bill the same day.

February 2010
On Feburary 25th, the House passed Temporary Extension Act, emergency legislation to extend UI benefits and other programs for 30 days that were going to expire on February 28th.

Republican Senator Jim Bunning singlehandedly blocked passage of this emergency measure, despite the serious consequences for families across the nation. He objected to Democrats' 11 requests to extend unemployment benefits. And when Sen. Merkley (D-Ore.) begged him to drop his objection, Bunning replied: “Tough sh*t.”

March 2010
The Senate finally passed the Temporary Extension bill on March 2nd with the President signing the bill into law the same day–but not before a three-day shut down of these critical programs that jeopardized unemployment benefits for more than one million Americans and furloughed thousands of highway and transit workers.

On March 17th, the House passed the Continuing Extension Act to extend unemployment benefits and other critical programs for 30 days.

But Senator Coburn blocked consideration of this bill. The Hill:

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) has blocked passage of a crucial package of expiring provisions, including extended unemployment insurance benefits that are scheduled to run out on April 5. Coburn has balked at Democrats' request for unanimous consent to pass the extensions, threatening a standoff similar to one that pitted Sen. Jim Bunning (R-Ky.) against the Democratic leadership last month.

April 2010
Twenty-nine days after the House passed the bill, the Senate changed the bill and on April 15th finally passed extended unemployment benefits through May 29, 2010. The House then passed the Senate bill the same day, sending it to the President on April 15th. The continued Senate Republican obstruction, caused unemployment benefits and other programs to lapse for twelve days.

May 2010
On May 28th, the House passed the American Jobs and Closing Tax Loopholes Act, an American job creation bill that also extends unemployment benefits for six months.

June 2010
Senate Republicans blocked moving forward on the American Jobs and Closing Tax Loopholes Act legislation throughout the month:

Republicans blocked cloture to proceed to the bill on June 17th.

Even after more changes were made to achieve a compromise, Republicans blocked cloture again on June 24th.

On June 29th, because the Senate Republicans repeatedly obstructed the job creation legislation all month, the House considered a standalone unemployment extension bill under rules requiring a two-thirds majority to pass. More than 80% of House Republicans voted down the extension.

On June 30th, Senate Republicans blocked consideration of a six month unemployment bill. The vote was 58-38.

July 2010
On July 1st, the House again considered the Restoration of Emergency Unemployment Compensation Act under simple majority rules, passing the bill 270-153.

It is now July 15th. Senate Republicans are currently claiming that the emergency unemployment benefits for those out of work due to the Bush recession must be paid for. At the same time, Republicans like Senate Republican Whip Jon Kyl (R-AZ) approve of extending Bush era tax cuts for the rich without paying for them:

You should never have to offset cost of a deliberate decision to reduce tax rates on Americans.

This last cycle of Senate Republican obstruction has caused over two million workers to lose their unemployment insurance already:

If they don't act, 3.2 million people will lose their benefits by the end of the month. As Dr. Gary Burtless of the Brookings Institution said:

Every week this goes on, a few hundred thousand more lose their benefits. It's a scandal that it is taking Congress so long to do this.