Unemployment Benefits Vote Could Come Next Week

After four failed tries, the U.S. Senate is expected to take another crack at passing an unemployment benefits package next week. It's a vote that could affect 100,000 out-of-work Texans. Laurie Johnson reports.
Senators are expected to try again early next week as they attempt to move the unemployment package through Congress. Current federal benefits for unemployed workers are set to expire at the end of this month and an extension is necessary to keep checks in the mail for up to a million people. Democrats think they have the votes to get the bill to the President's desk. Houston-area Democratic Congressman Gene Green is watching the process with interest. He wonders why the vote hasn't happened already.

"I think it's a travesty that they can't pass the unemployment extension in the Senate. Even when Ronald Reagan was President it was very bi-partisan. People are out of work. We had a tough economy in the 80's. They extended unemployment. Why would we not do it today? I would hope those 1 million people would contact the senators and say why are you holding it up? Even in the state of Texas, our two senators have not voted for it and the lack of the extension I think is a black mark on our whole country."

Republican Senator John Cornyn says he has supported a benefits extension, just not one that will increase the federal deficit. He wants to see an unemployment package that pays for itself.

"It's simply irresponsible to continue to spend money that we don't have, particularly when I have supported and we've offered alternative packages that extend unemployment insurance benefits on a temporary basis for the people who need it, but having it paid for. That is the way I think we should go and so I will continue to resist additional deficit spending."

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has promised a procedural vote on Tuesday. Four similar votes have failed.
Bio photo of Laurie Johnson

Laurie Johnson

Local Host, All Things Considered

Laurie Johnson is the Houston host for All Things Considered at KUHF NPR for Houston. Before taking the anchor chair, she worked as a general assignments reporter at KUHF, starting there as an intern in 2002...