Republicans in the House of Representatives blocked legislation that would provide additional benefits to the long-term unemployed. The house is currently debating a “continuing resolution” that will fund government operations through September 30, the end of the fiscal year.
Rep. Barbara Lee (D) California attempted to amend the “CR” with her provision to provide another 14 weeks of federally funded unemployment benefits for people who have been out of work for six months or longer. The amendment based on a bill introduced by Rep. Lee and Rep. Bobby Scott (D) Virginia would modify the tax cut deal that President Obama struck with congressional Republicans in December.
The deal reauthorized tax cuts for the rich for two years and 73 weeks of federal benefits for the long-term unemployed for one year. The Lee-Scott measure is aimed at the “99ers” people who have exhausted the maximum 99 weeks of State and Federal unemployment benefits without finding work. It would add 14 weeks to the first “tier” of Federal Emergency Unemployment Compensation which kicks in when State benefits run out after 26 weeks. The benefits would apply retroactively, so 99ers who ran out of benefits weeks or months ago would start receiving checks again.
Of the 600 amendments to the “CR” that have been proposed or considered so far, this amendment is the only one that deals with the problem of the unemployed directly. Rep. Denny Rehberg used a parliamentary maneuver to successfully block the amendment. “An amendment to an appropriation bill shall not be in order in changing existing law. The amendment directly changes existing law.” Rehberg said.
The Congressional Research Service estimated that there are roughly 1.4 million Americans who have been unemployed for 99 weeks or longer as of October.