HOUSE REPUBLICANS VOTE THREE TIMES TO PREVENT VOTE TO EXTEND UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS BEFORE THEY EXPIRE ON MAY 31

 WASHINGTON – House Republicans voted along party lines three times over two days to prevent consideration of a bill by Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY) and Rep. Benjamin Cardin (D-MD) that would extend unemployment benefits for all dislocated workers, helping four million families over the next six months.  If legislation extending the unemployment insurance program is not enacted, millions of displaced workers will soon be left with no unemployment benefits at all.

 “We are doing every thing we can in Congress and outside to draw attention to the fact that people are suffering through no fault of their own.  They want to work.  Unfortunately, the jobs simply are not there in today’s economy.  But the House Republicans turned a deaf ear.  They refused to even allow a vote just like they did when Democrats attempted to offer a substitute to last week’s tax bill that would have created a million new jobs,” said Rep. Rangel, the top Democrat on the Committee on Ways and Means, which has jurisdiction over the unemployment insurance program.

 "Our economy is hemorrhaging jobs, workers are losing unemployment benefits, and families are suffering.  And yet the Republican leadership in the House will not allow a vote on extending unemployment benefits.  If Congress does not act in the next six legislative days, millions of Americans will be denied extended unemployment benefits over the next six months.” said Representative Cardin, leading Democrat on the Ways and Means Subcommittee on Human Resources.

 The Democrats first attempted to force consideration of the Rangel-Cardin bill yesterday by calling for a vote “to defeat the previous question” while the House was debating the rule under which the Boehner Pension Bill would be considered.  If the effort to defeat the previous question had been successful, then Democrats could have called up the unemployment extension as an addition to the bill under consideration.  The Republicans voted along party lines to “table” or dismiss the motion.

 Today, Democrats made a similar motion while debating the rule under which the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) authorization bill would be considered.  Again, House Republicans voted down the motion along party lines.  Later today, Rep. Cardin attempted to offer the Rangel-Cardin bill as an amendment to the NTSB bill, but Republicans voted to block the offering of the amendment.

 “It is clear that the Republican leadership has no compassion when it comes to people unemployed due to the sour job market.  Majority Leader Tom Delay even had the audacity to say today that it is ‘a stretch to say that we are at a crisis point’ on this issue,” Rep. Rangel said.  “If Mr. DeLay would take any time to hear just a few of the stories from unemployed workers, he would know that millions of families are at a crisis point.  And the House Republicans seem to be doing all they can to make the unemployment crisis worse for these millions of families.”

 The Rangel-Cardin bill (H.R. 1652) would continue the extended benefits program for an additional six months, increase the length of benefits to 26 weeks, include coverage for the one million workers who have already exhausted their extended benefits, and expand unemployment insurance coverage for low-wage and part-time workers.  

 According to Department of Labor (DOL) data, the U.S. economy lost 48,000 jobs in April and the overall unemployment rate increased from 5.8% to 6.0%.  The economy has lost 525,000 jobs over the last three months alone.

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The Unemployment Benefits Extension Act  (H.R. 1652)
To be Introduced by Representatives Charles B. Rangel and Benjamin L. Cardin

The legislation would continue the extended benefits program for an additional six months, increase the amount of benefits to 26 weeks, include coverage for the one million workers who have already exhausted their extended benefits, and expand UI coverage for low-wage and part-time workers.∙ EXTENSION:  Extends the Temporary Extended Unemployment Compensation (TEUC) program through November (the program is currently scheduled to prohibit any new enrollees after May 31st).

∙ BENEFITS: Provides 26 weeks to all eligible workers with an additional 7 weeks available in States with higher unemployment.

∙ EXHAUSTEES:  Provides an additional 13 weeks to unemployed workers who exhausted their initial 13 weeks of extended benefits prior to enactment (for a total of 26 weeks). 

∙ NEW TRIGGERS:  Revises trigger for determining high unemployment to a 4% Adjusted Insured Unemployment Rate, which includes recent exhaustees, or a 6% Total Unemployment Rate.  This modification would allow about 18 States to qualify (only five States trigger on under the current-law definition).

∙ LOW-WAGE WORKERS:  Provides temporary Federal funding (through July 2004) for States to implement alternative base periods (which count a worker’s most recent wages when determining UI eligibility) and to allow displaced part-time workers to seek part-time employment while receiving UI.