This week, Democrats took action to help American families struggling under the dismal Bush economy. The passage of a temporary extension of unemployment insurance benefits will help 3.8 million Americans who have lost their jobs through no fault of their own, and are having difficulty finding a new job in the weak job market. Unemployment benefits, which are typically available for 26 weeks, will now be available for an additional 13 weeks. For states with an unemployment rate higher than the national average, an additional 13 weeks of benefits will be available on top of that.
Extending unemployment benefits is not an act of charity, but an act of compassion. Over the last five months, 325,000 jobs have been lost. Families are facing lower incomes, exploding gas and food prices, and increasing health care costs, making it more difficult just to make ends meet. This legislation is the right thing to do for our workers and our economy, and I hope the Senate will act on it soon.
The House also passed legislation this week that will keep our nation moving - literally. The Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act makes needed investments to improve and modernize Amtrak, and to expand intercity passenger rail systems. As gas prices continue to rise, this bill is an important part of moving toward a more energy independent future.
Yesterday, I held a press conference with Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles Rangel, Ways and Means Subcommittee Chairman Richard Neal, and Rep. John Tanner (TN-08). We discussed the refusal of Senate Republicans to responsibly offset the costs of a critical package of tax credits that will benefit American businesses and families. We urged them to work with us to move this legislation without making our children and grandchildren pay the cost. I made it very clear: the House will not vote on a tax extenders bill that is not paid-for. We are standing firm, with over 170 House Democrats (and counting) signing a letter to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell urging him to join us in passing a fully offset bill.
Next week, the House will complete consideration of the NASA Authorization bill, as well as take up the Iraq supplemental spending bill. We will also consider the Federal Employees Paid Parental Leave Act and the Stop Child Abuse in Residential Programs for Teens Act.