[January 15, 2014]WASHINGTON (Reuters) — Efforts to
renew emergency federal jobless benefits for 1.5 million Americans
stalled in the Senate on Tuesday when Democrats and Republicans rejected
each other's proposals.
Both sides vowed to keep looking for a compromise, but it appeared
unlikely they would find one before next week's Senate recess.
"It is extremely important that we act, and today we failed to act,"
said Democratic Senator Jack Reed of Rhode Island.
"It is not over," said Republican Senator Rob Portman of Ohio. "We
are not going to give up."
If and when the Democratic-led Senate passes a bill to extend
benefits, the measure would have to be approved by the
Republican-led House of Representatives before it could go to
President Barack Obama to sign into law.
Obama has been pushing Congress to renew the benefits for the
long-term unemployed — people who have been out of work for at least
six months. Their benefits expired on December 28.
"It's very disappointing that Republicans in the Senate chose to
block action tonight on a compromise solution to extend emergency
unemployment insurance for 1.3 million Americans who have been
actively looking for a job and have now had this vital lifeline cut
off," the White House said in a statement.
"We will continue to work with both sides to find a solution because
the cost of inaction is simply too high," the White House added.
Since December 28, the number of long-term unemployed has risen to
1.4 million from 1.3 million. Unless funding for the federal program
that provided the benefits is restored, the number of jobless
Americans losing benefits is expected to increase by 72,000 a week.
Republicans and Democrats have accused each other of being more
interested in jockeying for political position than actually
extending jobless benefits.
On Tuesday, Democrats rejected as
inadequate a Republican proposal to renew benefits for three months
at a cost of about $6.5 billion, which would have been offset by
Republicans rejected as excessive a Democratic proposal to extend
benefits until the mid-November at a cost of $18 billion, which
would also have been offset by other spending cuts.
Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid offered to allow Republican
amendments on Tuesday, but Republicans rejected the terms requiring
that amendments get at least 60 votes in the 100-member chamber to
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell called the Reid offer
An aide to McConnell complained that under the Reid plan, Democrats
would be allowed to revamp the entire bill and push it through the
Senate with a simple majority.
Democrats control the Senate, 55-45.
Reid brushed off the criticism and said the Senate needed to step up
and help the jobless.
"We need to remember the urgency of this matter," Reid said. "There
are lot of people who are desperate."
(Reporting by Thomas Ferraro and Richard Cowan;
by Steve Holland; editing by Dan Grebler, Meredith Mazzilli and