This was a vote on passage of legislation extending unemployment insurance for laid-off workers whose benefits had expired. Specifically, the bill extended unemployment insurance for six months for workers who had exhausted their benefits.
Democratic leaders had brought up the bill earlier in the week under a process known as suspension of the rules. 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. While a majority of members voted in favor of the bill, it failed to receive the two-thirds majority vote required for passage under suspension of the rules. Thus, the Democratic leadership decided to bring the bill up again under a process requiring only simple majority vote.
Rep. Jim McDermott (D-WA) urged support for the unemployment insurance extension: “This is support that is going to hardworking Americans who have played by the rules, paid into the system, and maybe were making $50,000, $60,000 a year a few weeks ago. These people who spend every day looking for work and have sent out hundreds of resumes, many of which are not even responded to, they paid for this by paying taxes in the past. And with five people competing for every available job, they simply cannot find work, no matter how qualified and educated they are, in the worst economy in 70 years.”
Rep. Sander Levin (D-MI) strongly refuted the notion that unemployment insurance discourages the jobless from working for work: “The average unemployment insurance in this country is about $300 a week. That is about half of the previous wage on average, and for a family of four, that average check is only 74 percent of the poverty level. That should refute the notion that those who are unemployed, who have no benefits, who have lost their jobs through no fault of their own, are not looking for work.”
Rep. Dave Camp (R-MI) urged opposition to the bill because it would increase the deficit: “Let me be clear: I support and Republicans have supported extending unemployment benefits, but we must not do so at a cost to the deficit, to the economy, and to future generations. Our inability to get our fiscal house in order isn't just damaging future generations; it is wreaking havoc on job creation today.”
Rep. Charles Boustany (R-LA) made similar remarks: “Now what does this bill do? It's $34 billion to extend the unemployment benefits. But it's not paid for. The American people want these policies paid for…. More debt, more uncertainty, more unemployment, higher taxes. The American people deserve better.”
The House passed the unemployment extension bill by a vote of 270-153. 241 Democrats and 29 Republicans voted “yea.” 142 Republicans and 11 Democrats voted “nay.” As a result, the House passed legislation extending unemployment insurance for six months for workers who had exhausted their benefits.