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Light at the End of the Tunnel for Federal Jobs Bill

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Special to the NNPA from the Afro-American Newspapers –

WASHINGTON (NNPA) - The fate of a $112 billion jobs bill that would provide relief for struggling states and fresh unemployment benefits for the nation’s jobless, faced new life as the Senate reconvened on Tuesday.

Republicans, who believe its passage would lead to an unmanageable level of additional national debt, have been stalling the bill. But Democrats are hopeful that the appointment of Carte Goodwin to fill the seat vacated by the death of Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W. Va.) will provide the vote needed to release the bill from a stall generated by Senate Republicans.

Goodwin, once a key staff member for West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin, is to be sworn in as the interim senator and is expected to vote in favor of the bill, in the face of Republican opposition.

“What we’re not willing to do, is use worthwhile programs as an excuse to burden our children and our grandchildren with an even bigger national debt,” Senate minority leader, Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said in a statement, according to The New York Times.

The GOP’s resistance has outraged many of the bill’s supporters who believe it would address the unemployment issue head on.

“This is irresponsible and immoral,” Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.) said in a statement. “This legislation would create and save jobs, help families feed their children and keep Americans in their homes. We are following through on our commitment to help the people and we are being blocked at every turn.”

According to The Washington Post, the measure would also have protected doctors from a drastic cut in Medicare rates scheduled to be enacted on June 18, and would have offered emergency unemployment benefits to over 5 million people. As a result of the blocking of the bill, an estimated 1.2 million people stopped receiving checks at the close of June.

In an effort to secure Republican support, Democrats initially scaled the bill down from its original $200 billion cost. In addition, Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) scaled back other parts of the bill, including a measure that would have protected doctors from the Medicare cut for six months rather than 19 months. In addition, Reid proposed deducting $25 from the checks from the millions of people receiving unemployment benefits.

President Obama and Democratic leaders vowed to continue to keep pushing for the bill, but don’t have a clear method to secure its passing. In order for the bill to advance, it would require at least one or two more Republican votes.

“We owe it to these Americans, who we have sworn to protect to get this legislation passed,” Cummings said in a statement. “Our primary focus must be putting those who are unemployed back to work. I urge my colleagues in the other body to put partisanship aside and pass this job-creating legislation immediately.”

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