In Rep. King's World, Republicans Aren't Blocking Unemployment Extensions

July 20, 2010 4:48 pm ET

Last night on the House floor, Democratic members held a colloquy upbraiding the GOP for systematically blocking emergency unemployment benefit extensions in the middle of a recession. Rep. Steve King (R-IA) took offense, explaining that Republicans aren't to blame because they "don't have the votes to block anything." The notion that Republicans haven't blocked benefits for the unemployed is ridiculous on its face. As this timeline shows, the GOP have repeatedly placed deficit fears above the needs of out-of-work Americans, all while denigrating the work ethic of those who rely on unemployment insurance in this economy.

Rep. King: Republican Obstruction Is A "Crazy Allegation"

REP. STEVE KING (R-IA): The gentleman from Florida, if he knows anything, knows very well the Republicans don't have the votes to block an unemployment extension. Don't have the votes to block a declaration of war. We don't have the votes to block anything in this Congress... And now I have to sit here and listen to the crazy allegation that Republicans are to blame for blocking unemployment benefit extensions... Does the gentleman from Florida and the other people who put these specious allegations out, do they forget that Obamacare didn't pass with a 60-40 vote to break the filibuster in the United States Senate? It passed with a, with a reconciliation package that required a simple majority in the United States Senate. So if Harry Reid is sincere and he really thinks he wants to get unemployment benefits to the people in this country, he can wrap this up in a reconciliation package, pass it off the floor of the United States Senate in a simple majority and send it over here to the House where the Speaker almost certainly would bring unemployment benefits to the floor of the House, and the gentleman from Florida, everybody in America knows, the votes are here in the House right now to pass those extensions.

TIMELINE: Republicans Blocked Unemployment Benefits Repeatedly While Insulting The Unemployed


November 2009: Senate Passed 20-Week Extension More Than A Month After House Passed Bill. According to the Huffington Post: "Recognizing that a weak economy still needs a government boost, the Senate voted overwhelmingly Wednesday to provide the jobless with up to 20 weeks in additional unemployment benefits and expand a first-time homebuyer tax credit to include a far larger pool of people entering the dormant housing market. ...The House acted in late September to extend unemployment benefits, but only to the jobless in the 27 states where the unemployment rate is above 8.5 percent. The bill bogged down in the Senate, first when senators from states with lower jobless rates demanded that the extension apply to all people exhausting their benefits, then with negotiations over adding the homebuyer and business tax credits. Then, Republicans held up floor action when Democrats blocked them from offering amendments on matters unrelated to the base bill." [Huffington Post, 11/4/09, emphasis added]

December 2009: Senate Overcame Republican Filibuster To Pass Defense Appropriations Bill With Unemployment Extension Provisions. According to the Los Angeles Times: "The Senate on Saturday passed a $636-billion defense appropriations bill that includes money for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, a 3.4% pay hike for the military and a two-month extension of unemployment benefits. The bill was approved, 88-10, after Democrats blocked a Republican attempt to delay the measure's passage in an effort to slow debate on controversial healthcare legislation... Lawmakers extended through February a package of emergency unemployment and healthcare benefits that had been part of this year's economic stimulus package... Senators voted on the bill after defeating a Republican effort to filibuster the legislation on Friday." [Los Angeles Times, 12/20/09, emphasis added]

February 2010

Sen. Jim Bunning (R-KY) Blocked Unemployment Benefits Extension. According to the Economist: "Yesterday Mr. Bunning extended a one-man procedural gambit that has blocked approval of an emergency extension of unemployment benefits, making it nearly certain that Americans who are out of work will stop receiving their payments on Sunday. Mr. Bunning insists that funding measures (presumably, given his political leanings, spending cuts) be found to pay for the unemployment benefits." [The Economist, 2/26/10, parentheses original]

  • Sen. Bunning's Hold Threatened Jobless Benefits For 1.2 Million Americans. According to McClatchy: "However, nearly 1.2 million unemployed workers, including 14,000 in Kentucky, would lose federal jobless benefits this month if Congress doesn't extend them, according to the National Employment Law Project, a liberal-leaning research group. The U.S. Labor Department estimates that about a third will lose benefits in the first two weeks of the month." [McClatchy, 3/1/10]
  • Sen. Bunning's Hold Caused Thousands Of Transit Dept. Workers To Be Furloughed. According to the Los Angeles Times: "Sen. Jim Bunning, the Republican from Kentucky whom Democrats love to blame for preventing passage of an extension of unemployment benefits, again blocked the Senate from taking up the measure on Tuesday. Bunning objected to a request from fellow Republican, Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, to pass a 30-day extension of jobless benefits and other expired measures included in a $10-billion spending bill. Bunning, who is retiring from the Senate, has said he supports the bill's goals but is opposing the measure until it is fully funded without increasing the federal deficit. In a one-person filibuster, Bunning has blocked the bill that, in addition to extending benefits, would also fund highway projects and prevent a big cut in Medicare payments to doctors. Thousands of workers on federal transportation projects have been furloughed and 41 transportation projects around the country have been suspended. About 100,000 people have seen their benefits expire." [Los Angeles Times, 3/2/10, emphasis added]
  • Sen. Bunning To Democratic Colleagues: "Tough Sh*t." According to McClatchy: "Some unemployment benefits could dry up Monday. Newly laid-off workers wouldn't get federal help with health insurance premiums. Road and transit bills could go unpaid, Medicare payments to doctors would stay high and rural satellite reception could be affected, all thanks to Sen. Jim Bunning's decision to block legislation that would keep alive a host of programs that expire Sunday night. The Kentucky Republican, according to several sources, told Democratic colleagues "tough s---" Thursday when they tried to get him to change his mind." [McClatchy, 2/26/10, emphasis added]

Rep. Dean Heller (R-NV) On Extending Unemployment: "Is The Government Now Creating Hobos?"  According to the Elko Daily Free Press: "[Rep. Dean] Heller said the current economic downturn and policies may bring back the hobos of the Great Depression, people who wandered the country taking odd jobs. He said a study found that people who are out of work longer than two years have only a 50 percent chance of getting back into the workforce. 'I believe there should be a federal safety net,' Heller said, but he questioned the wisdom of extending unemployment benefits yet again to a total of 24 months, which Congress is doing. 'Is the government now creating hobos?' he asked." [Elko Daily Free Press2/21/10, emphasis added]

March 2010

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) Blocked Unemployment Benefits Extension. According to 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." [The Hill, 3/25/10]

  • Sen. Coburn's Hold Endangered Benefits For Over 200,000 Americans. According to McClatchy: "An estimated 212,500 people across the United States are in danger of exhausting their federal unemployment benefits this week because a Republican senator has blocked Congress from considering an extension. The House of Representatives approved the funding last month, but it stalled in the Senate after Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., insisted that the bill be paid for." [McClatchy, 4/8/10]

Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) Said That Unemployment Benefits Discourage Jobless From Seeking Work. According to the Huffington Post: "Sen. Jon Kyl of Arizona, the Republican whip, argued that unemployment benefits dissuade people from job-hunting 'because people are being paid even though they're not working.' Unemployment insurance 'doesn't create new jobs. In fact, if anything, continuing to pay people unemployment compensation is a disincentive for them to seek new work,' Kyl said... 'I'm sure most of them would like work and probably have tried to seek it, but you can't argue that it's a job enhancer. If anything, as I said, it's a disincentive. And the same thing with the COBRA extension and the other extensions here.'" [Huffington Post3/1/10]

Former Rep. Tom Delay (R-TX) Said Unemployment Insurance Recipients "Don't Look For A Job...Before They Know The Benefits Are Going To Run Out." On the March 7, 2010 edition of CNN's State of the Union with Candy Crowley, former Republican House Majority Leader Tom Delay stated: "there is an argument to be made that these extensions of these unemployment benefits keeps people from going and finding jobs. In fact, there's a study -- there's some studies that have been done that shows that people stay on unemployment compensation and they don't look for a job until two or three weeks before they know the benefits are going to run out." [CNN, 3/7/10]

April 2010

Senate Voted To Extend Unemployment Benefits, Defeating Republican Filibuster. According to McClatchy: "The Senate on Monday took a major, and likely decisive, step toward restoring jobless benefits for hundreds of thousands of people, as those constituents endured an eighth straight day without assurances of any help. Efforts to provide the benefits have been stalled while senators fought over how and whether to pay for the aid. A 60-34 Senate vote Monday to overcome a procedural hurdle and move to a final vote offered new hope that the impasse will be broken later this week... Usually, the approval of such matters is routine, but fiscal conservatives recently have dug in. The latest impasse is the second in recent weeks over extending the jobless and other programs. In March, it was Sen. Jim Bunning, R-Ky., who held up an extension for that month, protesting that it wasn't paid for, but he relented under pressure from Republican leaders. This time, Republicans rallied around Coburn." [McClatchy, 4/12/10, emphasis added]

May 2010

Sen. Judd Gregg (R-NH) Said Congress Should Cut Off Unemployment Insurance "Right Now" Because It "Encourages People...To Stay On Unemployment." In an appearance on CNBC's Squawk Box, Republican Sen. Judd Gregg had this exchange:

Q: Senator Gregg, is there a point, you think, when the government has to sort of end these ever-continuing claims?

Gregg: Yeah, right now. This week, however, we're going to extend it again. And this has become counterproductive. We're basically undermining the cyclical event. Because you're out of the recession, you're starting to see growth and you're clearly going to dampen the capacity of that growth if you basically keep an economy that encourages people to, rather than go out and look for work, to stay on unemployment. Yes, it's important to do that up to a certain level, but at some point you've got to acknowledge that we're not Europe.

[CNBC, 5/24/10 via Wonk Room, emphasis added]

June 2010

Senate Republicans Filibustered Unemployment Benefit Extension. According to "A bill to extend unemployment benefits for hundreds of thousands of people continues to be stalled in the U.S. Senate. Democrats are trying to push it through but they ran into a GOP filibuster Thursday. Republicans say the $55 billion it would add to the deficit is just too high. If the bill does make it through and the president signs it unemployment benefits for more than 900,000 people across the country who recently ran out would be restored." [, 6/18/10]

  • Republicans Blocked Unemployment Extension Three Times In June. According to the Associated Press: "For the third time in as many weeks, Senate Republicans on Wednesday successfully filibustered a bill to continue providing unemployment checks to millions of people... The jobless aid measure is one of the last remnants of the Democrats' jobs agenda, which has largely fallen prey to GOP concerns about the deficit... Save for GOP moderates Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine, Republicans uniformly opposed the $33 billion jobless aid measure because its cost would be added to the nation's $13 trillion national debt." [Associated Press, 6/30/10, via] 
  • 1.7 Million Jobless Americans Lost Benefits In June. According to the Associated Press: "Without an extension, 1.7 million of the 7 million people who have been without a job for at least six months will have lost their unemployment benefits by the end of this week, according to the Labor Department." [Associated Press, 6/30/10, via]

Republican Senate Candidate Rand Paul (KY) Suggested Unemployed Are Refusing To Take Jobs With Lower Wages. According to the Lexington Herald-Leader: "Republican U.S. Senate candidate Rand Paul on Friday urged Americans who have been unemployed for many months to consider returning to the workforce in less desirable jobs rather than continue relying on government unemployment assistance. 'In Europe, they give about a year of unemployment. We're up to two years now in America,' Paul said on Sue Wylie's WVLK-AM 590 radio program. 'As bad as it sounds, ultimately we do have to sometimes accept a wage that's less than we had at our previous job in order to get back to work and allow the economy to get started again," Paul said. "Nobody likes that, but it may be one of the tough love things that has to happen.'" [Lexington Herald-Leader6/18/10]

Republican Senate Candidate Sharron Angle (NV) Suggested Unemployment Insurance Spoils Workers And Discourages Job-Seeking. According to the Washington Post, Republican Nevada senatorial candidate Sharron Angle stated in an interview: "What has happened is the system of entitlement has caused us to have a spoilage with our ability to go out and get a job...There are some jobs out there that are available. Because they have to enter at a lower grade and they cannot keep their unemployment, they have to make a choice now. We're making them make a choice between unemployment benefits and going back to work and working up through the ranks of that job and actually building up a good wage again... What we need to do is make that unemployment benefit go down, not just completely remove the safety net from them while they go out and go to work." [Washington Post6/30/10, emphasis added]

July 2010

Senate Republicans Continued To Filibuster Unemployment Benefit Extension. According to the Los Angeles Times: "Senate Democrats are set to pass a key hurdle Tuesday on extending unemployment benefits for an estimated 2.5 million unemployed Americans and are expected to overcome a Republican filibuster of the new aid. Once Senate passage of $33.9 billion in extra funds also is approved by the House, a step expected this week, money will begin flowing to jobless workers across the country. California, New York, Florida and Illinois are among the states with the highest numbers of jobless whose benefits have expired. The benefits would be retroactive to June and last through November. Defeat of a GOP filibuster is considered assured. The move requires 60 votes, a mark Senate Democrats will reach Tuesday after their newest member, Carte Goodwin of West Virginia, is sworn in to take the place of the late Sen. Robert C. Byrd. A key vote will take place minutes after Goodwin takes his place in the Senate." [Los Angeles Times, 7/19/10, emphasis added]