Political Gridlock Threatens Unemployment Benefits

By aaroncynic in News on Mar 1, 2010 3:20PM

Unemployment benefits for nearly 15,000 Illinois residents without jobs dried up today thanks to a filibuster by Kentucky Senator Jim Bunning. The Senator is blocking legislation that would extend unemployment insurance and COBRA benefits for millions of Americans, because he wants details on where the money will come from and prefers it didn't come from stimulus funds.

Senator Dick Durbin lamented the political deadlock, saying at a press conference “This is truly an economic emergency in our country with millions of people out of work. This decision by one senator with his filibuster from Kentucky is going to cause hardship to a lot of innocent people.” Senator Bunning is demanding an amendment detailing how the benefits extension will be paid for. Earlier this week, he said “The present level of debt is unsustainable. I have too many grandchildren that want to grow up in the same America that I grew up in.” While we agree that Congress should account for cash flow, it's worth noting that other types of spending never seem to have an approval problem.

Even though some lawmakers believe the bill will pass this week, the longer politicians stall, the worse things become for those affected. Senator Durbin pointed out that it could take weeks for some people to start receiving benefits again after losing them. The job market remains bleak and unemployment numbers still linger in the double digits. One unemployed speaker at the conference said of the benefits: “It's all that I have right now. It's at least keeping a roof over my head and food on the table,” which is a situation we feel many lawmakers have yet to face.