Jobless bills stall in Senate
Legislation to resurrect long-term jobless legislation stalled in the Senate on Thursday, triggering recriminations from both sides of the political aisle despite earlier expressions of optimism that benefits soon might be restored for more than 1 million victims of the recession.
Gridlock asserted itself after majority Democrats offered to pay for a 10-month extension of a scaled-back program of benefits — then refused to permit Republicans even to seek any changes.
Instead, Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., accused Republicans of “continually denigrating our economy, our president and frankly, I believe, our country.”
But Sen. Dan Coats of Indiana, one of a half-dozen Republicans who helped advance the bill over an initial hurdle earlier in the week, said he hadn’t been consulted on any compromise.
Echoing complaints by other members of his party, he said that under Reid’s leadership he has been relegated to the sidelines. Indiana voters “didn’t send me here to be told just to sit down and forget it,” he said.
At issue was a struggle over the possible resurrection of a program that expired Dec. 28, immediately cutting off benefits of roughly $256 weekly for more than 1.3 million hurt by the recession.
The measure is the first to come before the Senate in the election year, and since Monday has become ground zero of a competition between the political parties to appeal to hard-hit victims of the longest recession in more than a half-century.
Though unemployment has receded in recent months, long-term joblessness is high by historical standards.
Despite the squabbling, lawmakers in both parties said the effort to find a compromise would continue.