WASHINGTON, DC – House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (MD) spoke on the House Floor today in support of legislation extending unemployment insurance benefits:
“Mr. Speaker, for the last seven and one-half years, the President and members of his Administration have claimed that the American economy is doing just fine.
“In December, President Bush said: ‘The economy is pretty good. There’s definitely some storm clouds and concerns, but the underpinning is good.’
“But the reality, of course, is far different – particularly for American workers.
“Just last Friday, the Labor Department reported that the unemployment rate jumped one-half percent, from 5 percent to 5.5 percent, in May alone – the largest one-month increase in unemployment in 22 years.
“Our economy has actually lost jobs each of the last five months – a loss of some 325,000 jobs since the first of the year.
“And, over the last 12 months, the number of unemployed Americans has increased by 1.6 million (from nearly 6.9 million in May 2007 to nearly 8.5 million in May 2008).
“In fact, Mr. Speaker, 1.5 million workers are long-term unemployed, which means that they have been jobless for more than six months.
“All the while, working Americans have been confronted with decreasing household incomes, exploding gas and food prices, and escalating health care costs.
“Why then, given this squeeze on hard-working, middle-class American families, does the President threaten to veto a common-sense, compassionate response – the temporary extension of unemployment insurance benefits?
“Here’s the kicker: There are 200,000 more long-term jobless Americans today than there were in 2002, when President Bush last signed an extension of unemployment benefits into law.
“There is no justification for the President’s threatened veto of this much-needed legislation.
“This bill is not only a sign of compassion and a demonstration of our values, but also a fast-acting form of economic stimulus for the floundering Bush economy.
“It will simply provide up to 13 weeks of extended unemployment benefits in every state to workers exhausting regular unemployment compensation. And, in states with higher levels of unemployment, an additional 13 weeks is available on top of that.
“Mr. Speaker, this legislation is vital for workers and their families who are struggling to make ends meet in this poorly performing economy.
“It is not charity. It is a recognition that, under this Administration, the American worker has been forced to contend with job loss, decreasing incomes, exploding gas, food and health care costs, and unprecedented foreclosure rates.
“Mr. Speaker, this legislation is the right thing to do for workers, and the right thing to do for our economy.
“I urge my colleagues on both sides of the aisle: Show some compassion. Stimulate our anemic economy. Vote for this important legislation.”