Quick Hit Aricka Flowers Thursday March 13th, 2014, 9:42pm

Schneider Pushes For Unemployment Benefits Vote In House, Senate Reaches Tentative Deal

U.S. Rep. Brad Schneider (D-IL,10) has taken steps to push for the reactivation of long-term unemployment benefits in his chamber.

On Wednesday, Schneider introduced a discharge petition that could force the House to vote on an unemployment benefits extension package that would help the two million Americans who have seen their jobless insurance lapse since the December 28 expiration, which immediately affected 80,000 Illinoisans. An average of 72,000 Americans are losing their unemployment insurance each week as a result of the expiration of benefits for the long-term unemployed.

“Failing to extend unemployment insurance, a critical lifeline for many of our families, is shortsighted and hurts our communities and businesses,” Schneider said in a  release announcing his plans. “If my colleagues want to vote against the extension, I respect their right to disagree; but failing to even allow a vote goes against the very progress that families and our constituents demand. Partisan politics must not be allowed to get in the way of doing the right thing for our middle class families. That’s why I will file a measure to end the gridlock and force a vote on extending unemployment insurance.”

If the petition is signed by a majority of House members, the chamber would be required to call a vote on the issue. As Fran Spielman points out, somewhere in the neighborhood of 20 or so Republicans would have to jump on board and sign the petition in order for the House to be forced to consider extending long-term unemployment benefits. So far 190 lawmakers have signed on to the discharged petition, No. 0008. In addition to Schneider, the Illinois U.S. Representatives that have signed on to the petition include Bobby Rush (D-IL,1), Robin Kelly (D-IL,2), Dan Lipinski (D-IL,3), Luis Gutierrez (D-IL,4), Mike Quigley (D-IL,5), Danny Davis (D-IL,7), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL,8), Bill Foster (D-IL,11), Bill Enyart (D-IL,12), Jan Schakowski (D-IL,9), and Cheri Bustos (D-IL,17). 

This is not the first time that Schneider has called for a vote to reactivate the extension of jobless benefits. Back in January, the congressman joined 48 of his fellow freshman lawmakers to press House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH,8) to allow the chamber to vote on an extension. The lawmakers sent the following letter to Boehner on the issue:

As members of the freshman class, we are writing to request an immediate, up-or-down vote to extend long-term unemployment insurance for 1.3 million Americans.

Our constituents elected us to Congress to tackle the critical issues facing the country. One of the largest issues confronting our economy and families now is the recent expiration of long-term unemployment insurance for 1.3 million Americans. It’s time for Congress to govern and act and not leave these people behind.

It is unconscionable that Congress would fail to extend unemployment benefits to over a million long-term unemployed Americans who continue to look for work. Unfortunately, Congress’ continued failure to immediately extend these benefits is also harming our economic recovery.

According to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, extending unemployment benefits would actually boost GDP and increase full-time employment. Conversely, failing to act will continue to hinder our economic recovery. In addition, failing to act now means millions of long-term unemployed Americans will continue to face significant hardships as they are trying to get back on their feet and into the workforce.

Simply, Congress’ failure to extend long-term unemployment benefits is poor economic policy and a devastating blow to families who continue to struggle. For these reasons, it is time for the House of Representatives to act. The Senate has already begun consideration to extend long-term unemployment benefits. The House should as well– without further delay.

Mr. Speaker, our constituents elected us to Congress to govern. The American people deserve an immediate vote to extend unemployment insurance benefits. Congress – and our economy – cannot afford to sit idle as so many Americans desperately wait for us to act.

Schneider is not facing a challenge in the primary election, but he will go up against Bob Dold in November. Schneider unseated the former one-term congressman, who succeeded U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL) as the district's rep, back in 2012. Dold is the sole Republican running in the primary election set for next Tuesday, so a rematch is inevitable — and it is reportedly gearing up to be one of the hottest races in the general election, both at the local and national levels. Pushing for a hot button issue like the extension of unemployment benefits for the long-term unemployed will no doubt boost Schneider's visibility as the focus turns to the November election.

Meanwhile, the Senate announced Thursday that it has reached a tentative deal on extending unemployment benefits. The plan, that reportedly has bipartisan support, will retroactively provide benefits to those who lost them and extend long-term jobless assistance for five months. The bill will also prevent millionaires and billionaires from receiving unemployment benefits. The bill will also set aside resources for additional job placement and training programs.

Schneider had this to say about the potential deal reached by the Senate: “The Senate’s bipartisan deal to renew unemployment insurance is a strong step forward for the 2 million Americans who lost their unemployment insurance. Now it’s the House’s turn to act, and I’ll continue fighting to force a vote because while I respect my colleagues right to disagree, failing to hold a vote is unacceptable.”

Even if the Senate compromise bill were to pass, it is highly questionable as to whether it would have any legs in the House. The Senate legislation will not be heard in the chamber until after the 10-day recess that begins Friday. The bill could pass in the upper chamber by the end of this month.

Stay tuned. 

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