Jobless benefits bill stalls in bickering Senate
WASHINGTON — Legislation to resurrect long-term jobless legislation stalled in the Senate on Thursday, triggering recriminations from both sides of the political aisle despite earlier expressions of optimism that benefits might soon be restored for more than 1 million victims of the recession.
Gridlock asserted itself after majority Democrats offered to pay for a 10-month extension of a scaled-back program of benefits, then refused to permit Republicans even to seek any changes.
Instead, Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., accused Republicans of “continually denigrating our economy, our president and frankly, I believe, our country.”
Sen. Dan Coats of Indiana, one of a half-dozen Republicans who helped advance the bill over an initial hurdle earlier in the week, said he had not been consulted on any compromise.
Echoing complaints by other members of his party, he said that under Reid's leadership he has been relegated to the sidelines.
Indiana voters “didn't send me here to be told just to sit down and forget it,” he said.
At issue was a struggle over the possible resurrection of a program that expired on Dec. 28, immediately cutting off benefits of roughly $256 weekly for more than 1.3 million job seekers hurt by the recession.
The measure is the first to come before the Senate in the election year, and since Monday has become ground zero of a competition between the political parties to appeal to hard-hit victims of the longest recession in more than a half-century.
While unemployment has receded in recent months, long-term jobless is high by historical standards.
Despite the squabbling, lawmakers in both parties said the effort to find a compromise would continue.
“We're still trying to work through this,” said Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., whose state has 9 percent unemployment.
At midday Thursday, Reid had expressed optimism about the chances for compromise, and Democratic officials said talks with Republicans were focused on a scaled-back program that is fully paid for and would provide up to 31 weeks of benefits for the long-term unemployed.
The officials said the proposal would run through the late fall, and the price tag — approximately $18 billion — would be offset through cuts elsewhere in the budget so deficits would not rise.
Reid told reporters that he was “cautiously optimistic” about a compromise emerging later in the day, and said he had held meetings with fellow Nevadan Dean Heller, a Republican, but provided no details.
By midafternoon, when Reid formally outlined the proposal, there was no evident Republican support for it, and each side accused the other of an unwillingness to compromise.
Chandler Smith, a spokeswoman for Heller, said the senator met with Reid and Reed during the day and has been talking with Republicans as well, although he spent part of the day at a hospital for repair of a cast.
Heller “remains optimistic, and appreciates that Sen. Reid has been negotiating in good faith to reach a deal,” Smith said.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Nurse defies Maine quarantine in standoff over Ebola
- Few knew of cyber attack on White House computer network
- Terminally ill woman may delay planned Nov. 1 suicide
- Ferguson grand jury cleared in leaks about police shooting of black teenager
- Botched probe of suspected arms dealer echoed Fast and Furious, watchdog finds
- Inmate freed in landmark case
- Hawaii’s National Guard sent to lava flow site
- Wash. shooting survivor has jaw surgery
- Plane slams into pilot training center at Kansas airport, killing 4
- Museum saves part of bomber plant
- Democratic areas flush with transportation grants