This was a vote on a motion to suspend the rules and pass legislation extending unemployment insurance for laid-off workers whose benefits had expired. Motions to suspend the rules limit time allowed for debate, and prohibit members from offering amendments. A two-thirds vote is required to approve the motion and pass a bill, rather than the usual majority.
Democratic leaders decided to bring a “stand-alone” unemployment insurance extension bill (meaning there were no other provisions in the measure) following failed attempts to enact more comprehensive legislation (which, among other things, had extended health benefits for jobless Americans). While the House had passed a more sweeping bill intended to aide job creation, that measure had stalled in the Senate. The House Democratic leadership thus attempted to pass this narrowly-tailored bill, which extended unemployment insurance for six months for workers who had exhausted their benefits.
Rep. Jim McDermott (D-WA) urged support for the bill: “America's unemployed workers cannot wait any longer for all of us to do the right thing….If you vote ``no'' you will be cutting off unemployment benefits to Americans who have worked hard and played by the rules but now find themselves with no job, no savings, and no support.”
Rep. Dave Camp (R-MI) argued the bill was fiscally irresponsible: “ Here we go again. Another month, another bill extending unemployment benefits and extending the Federal deficit….I urge my colleagues to oppose this deficit-extending bill today so that we can bring up a real bill that allows us to pass and actually pay for these benefits for the long-term unemployed. That's the only road out of this policy dead-end into which the other [Democratic] side's spending ways have driven us.”
While a majority of members (261) supported the measure, a two-thirds majority vote is required for passage under suspension of the rules. Since H.R. 5618 did not receive a two-thirds majority vote, the measure failed. The vote was 261-155. 231 Democrats – including all of the most progressive members -- and 30 Republicans voted “yea.” 139 Republicans and 16 Democrats voted “nay.” As a result, the House rejected legislation pass legislation extending unemployment insurance (for six months) for laid-off workers whose benefits had expired. Democratic leaders, however, could still bring the bill up again under a process requiring only a simple majority vote for passage.