WASHINGTON, DC – House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (MD) released the following statement today after House Democrats succeeded in collecting 200 Democratic signatures on a “discharge petition” to force House consideration of H.Res.398, a rule which would allow consideration of H.R. 3244 (sponsored by Reps. Rangel/Cardin) and H.R. 3270 (Sponsored by Rep. Dunn). A discharge petition is a procedural device that allows House Members to force a vote on legislation – usually over the objection of the House leadership – when they collect the signatures of 218 Members (a majority of House Members):
“In just over one week we have collected 200 signatures of Members to force a vote on extending unemployment insurance to the millions of Americans who face the terrifying experience of long-term unemployment. I would like to thank Representative Darlene Hooley for her outstanding work on this issue.
“Thankfully, the national labor market has made small gains in the past two months, but many areas of the country still suffer from high unemployment. And these gains are not enough to actually add jobs to the economy once population growth is factored in to the equation – and they are no where near enough to make up for the 3 million jobs lost under President Bush’s watch.
“Americans have been hit hard by this recession, with average household income declining, poverty increasing and health care costs skyrocketing. The manufacturing sector also continues to lose ten of thousands of jobs each month. The least Congress can do is do what we have done in the past – extend and expand the unemployment insurance program until there are enough jobs for all Americans who want to work.
“Americans want a job not a check. But until there are jobs available, it is our responsibility to offer a helping hand.”
H.R. 3244 extends unemployment insurance through June 2004; increases the length of the benefit from 13 weeks to 26 weeks (recapturing nearly 1 million people who continue to seek employment but have already exhausted their benefits); and allows part-time and low-wage workers to receive benefits. In addition, it offers 7 weeks of benefits to individuals in high-unemployment states and expands the definition to allow these benefits in 18 states instead of the current 5 states that qualify. H.R. 3270 extends the current program an additional six months.