Transcript: Remarks by Sen. Chuck Schumer on the Senate bill to extend unemployment insurance benefits for 3 months

Partial transcript of remarks by Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-New York) on S. 1845, the Emergency Unemployment Compensation Extension Act. The press briefing was held on Jan. 7, 2014:

…Today brought us a glimmer of hope. It’s good news in two ways.

First is it doesn’t close the door on actually getting this bill passed. It allows us to sit down and negotiate. I’ll talk more about that in a sec.

But the second is it shows that the big plates – the tectonic plates – in our politics are moving. The issues that dominated the first 5 years of the President’s term – the deficit above all and Obamacare – are becoming less important than helping the average American family get by as job growth isn’t as robust as we’d like it and as middle-class incomes this decade have declined for the first time in American history.

Our Republican colleagues realize that. That’s why they didn’t shut the door on things because they saw, as this chart shows, the unemployment that we face much higher now, much higher…

We hope that this is a good faith negotiation. The offer that Sen. McConnell made to the Senate is obviously a non-starter.

…Some of us fear that our Republican colleagues while they know the power of this issue do not want to pass it and will put some obstacles in the way that will prevent the bill from passing.

Clearly, the amendment proposed by Sen. McConnell was not going to pass. And we don’t want a Mexican standoff where we put in our pay-for and they put in their pay-for. I could think of a pay-for that makes a lot more sense and is a lot more relevant than Sen. McConnell’s – take away the tax breaks for all companies that ship jobs overseas. That would actually reduce unemployment, eventually lower the cost of unemployment insurance. I think we’d have every Democrat vote for that. But I suppose that would be a non-starter for our Republican colleagues in the Senate and the House.

So the fundamental question is are they going through a charade to show they really, really want a bill but they just can’t come to an agreement and there are two different versions that fail or can we have serious negotiations to get something done? And we hope it’s the latter. We hope it’s the latter.

If our Republican colleagues continue to play games with this, they’ll show how far out of the mainstream they are. As was mentioned, I believe by Sen. Merkley, the original framework here was passed by George Bush, a conservative Republican President when unemployment was 5.6%. It’s now 7%. Have Republicans moved so far out of the mainstream that they reject even that? Even unemployment benefits for people who have worked 10, 20, 30 years at one job, lost their job and then they’re spending every day going online and knocking on doors trying to find a job and they can’t?

Certainly, we didn’t hear the theory of the hard right or what Rand Paul said that unemployment benefits are a disservice to our workers. This idea that people don’t want to work is fundamentally misleading the American character. Americans do want to work and their satisfaction in job well done for CEOs and for people who make sure the floors are really spotlessly clean late at night in a hospital.

So we hope that the vote today indicates that our Republican colleagues will negotiate in good faith. We are open to such negotiations.

We believe – I believe and I think most of my colleagues believe that it would be better to pass unpaid for if we can’t come to an agreement or even if we could because it stimulates the economy. But we want to get this bill passed. It’s too important – too important for the average American family not to.


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