Transcript: Sen. Dick Durbin’s remarks on the failure to extend unemployment benefits – Jan. 16, 2014

Partial transcript of press briefing remarks by Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Illinois) on the failure to extend unemployment insurance on Jan. 16, 2014:

If you ask the American people and those who observed what was a defining moment in the Mitt Romney campaign, it was probably when that bartender turned on his little video camera and captured Mitt Romney talking about the 47% – the 47% of Americans who are receiving government benefits and want more. That was that defining candid moment for Mitt Romney that defined Republicanism that was unacceptable in America. It may be one of the major reasons he lost that election – 47%.

What you see on the floor of the Senate today? You see a mentality among Republicans and their leadership that basically says, “When people are down and out and need a helping hand, we’re not going to give it to them because they’re lazy, and the only way to get them up off the couch and away from the television and off to work is to stop sending unemployment checks.”

What other conclusion can you draw from their opposition to unemployment benefits for 1.4 or 1.5 million Americans?

Think about this: Our unemployment system now pays for 27 weeks and yet we know the average length of unemployment in America is 38 weeks.

So what we’re asking for in a helping hand of about $300 a month for those who are unemployed is just a chance to find another job and to keep their families together while they do.

But this 47% mentality of Mitt Romney is now the mentality of Senate Republicans and we’re seeing it play out on the floor.

What’s even worse than this, as far as I’m concerned, are the pay-fors that they brought forward.

Sen. [Mitch] McConnell of Kentucky comes out and says, “The first thing we want to do is to eliminate the personal responsibility section of the Affordable Care Act.” You know what that does? That eliminates the protection against discrimination for pre-existing conditions. So he would damage the health insurance policies of over $300 million Americans to give temporary relief to 1.4 million. That’s his idea of a good pay-for.

He wasn’t alone. Another Senator came up and said, “No, we have to cut people on disability off of unemployment benefits.”

I talked to one of the Republicans Senators and said, “Have you ever visited a sheltered workshop where people who have mental challenges are able to do simple manual tasks? And so proud of themselves, they’ll walk to work, they’ll be there right on time because they get a chance to earn up to $1,000 a month in their sheltered workshops and when they lose their sheltered workshop job, they draw unemployment benefits for time off.”

And so, one other Republican idea to pay for unemployment benefits for the rest of America is to cut off benefits for those disabled people working in sheltered workshop.

And the last one is the most outrageous – cutting off the child tax credit for 1 million children in America to pay for temporary unemployment relief.

What a definition of a modern political party that they think the only way that we can help those who are unemployed is by hurting children, hurting the disabled, or denying to American families across the nation the protection they deserve in their health insurance plans.

The issue’s not going away. We may be leaving for a few days but simply to take the message back home to rally our troops, to rally our people in support of this.

So when we return, there’ll be another vote. We’ll have another opportunity to the Republicans – if they’re listening – to come join us in what used to be a very bipartisan issue.

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