Outten & Golden: Empowering Employees in the Workplace

Senate Ends Republican Filibuster Against Jobless Benefits

April 13th, 2010 | Mike Hall

Image: Mike HallEach day while Congress was on its two-week spring break, some 30,000 long-term jobless workers ran out of unemployment insurance (UI) benefits because of Republican Sen. Tom Coburn (Okla.), who blocked a vote to extend UI benefits.

Yesterday, the Senate’s first day back from vacation—and with more than 400,000 workers now out of benefits—Coburn was at it again, taking to the Senate floor to continue the filibuster against helping the jobless.

But by a 60-34 vote, the Senate told him to shut up and voted to end his endless diatribe against workers who are desperate for work. Coburn was joined by 33 other Republican senators who voted to continue the filibuster and block extension of UI and COBRA, which helps jobless workers pay for health insurance. Four Republicans and all 56 Democrats who were present voted for cloture. Six senators did not vote.

The UI filibuster is just the latest example of Republican filibuster abuse. It was the 50th time this Congress, the “just-say-no” Republicans, has tried to talk legislation or nominations to death.

The cloture vote means the Senate will now be allowed to vote on a short-term, 30-day extension, probably Thursday.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka calls the delay “shameful” and says Congress needs to get down to the business of a long-term UI extension.

It is shameful that such a simple and humane step took so long to implement and that Republican senators tried to win political points by jeopardizing the lifeline of hundreds of thousands of working families.

Congress should act soon to extend these benefits for a full year, so working families don’t face Republican obstruction and uncertainty every single month. The House and Senate should move quickly to reconcile their competing bills.

More than two in every five unemployed workers in this country have been unemployed for more than six months. And the situation is getting worse. The number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks and over) increased by 414,000 in March to 6.5 million. In March, 44.1 percent of unemployed persons were jobless for 27 weeks or more.

*This post originally appeared in AFL-CIO blog on April 13, 2010. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Mike Hall is a former West Virginia newspaper reporter, staff writer for the United Mine Workers Journal and managing editor of the Seafarers Log. I came to the AFL- CIO in 1989 and have written for several federation publications, focusing on legislation and politics, especially grassroots mobilization and workplace safety. When my collar was still blue, I carried union cards from the Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers, American Flint Glass Workers and Teamsters for jobs in a chemical plant, a mining equipment manufacturing plant and a warehouse. I’ve also worked as roadie for a small-time country-rock band, sold my blood plasma and played an occasional game of poker to help pay the rent. You may have seen me at one of several hundred Grateful Dead shows. I was the one with longhair and the tie-dye. Still have the shirts, lost the hair.

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