Obama signs $18B bill extending unemployment

Posted April 15, 2010 at 5:40 p.m.

Associated Press | Just hours after Congress passed an $18
billion bill to restore unemployment benefits for the long-term
unemployed, President Barack Obama made it the law of the land.

The measure comes as welcome relief to hundreds of thousands of people
who lost out on the additional weeks of compensation after exhausting
their state-paid benefits. They now will be able to reapply for
long-term unemployment benefits and receive those checks retroactively
under the legislation.

The bill also restores full Medicaid payments to doctors who were threatened by a 21 percent cut and refloats the flood insurance program.

Obama signed the bill when he returned to the White House on Thursday night from fundraisers in Miami and a speech earlier in the day at Cape Canaveral, presidential spokesman Bill Burton said.

Obama thanked Congress for passing the temporary extension, saying it was critical to help struggling families make ends meet.

“Millions of Americans who lost their jobs in this economic crisis depend on unemployment and health insurance benefits to get by as they look for work and get themselves back on their feet,” Obama said in a statement. “But as I requested in my budget, I urge Congress to move quickly to extend these benefits through the end of this year.”

The legislation cleared both houses of Congress on Thursday night. The House passed the bill 289-112 just two hours after it emerged from the Senate on a 59-38 vote that capped an unusually partisan debate. Republicans largely chose to take a stand against the legislation for adding to the $12.8 trillion national despite backing it by wide margins in December and again recently.

“It increases the deficit by $18 billion, a cost to be paid for by future generations,” said Rep. Jerry Moran, R-Kan. “This legislation is yet another unfortunate example of business as usual in our nation’s capital.”

Several other popular programs had also expired, including federal flood insurance, higher Medicare payment rates for doctors and generous health insurance subsidies for people who have lost their jobs.

The situation became more urgent Thursday afternoon when Medicare announced that it would start paying doctors’ claims at a 21 percent lower rate. That won’t be necessary now.

Thursday’s measure provides up to 99 weekly unemployment checks averaging $335 to people whose 26 weeks of state-paid benefits have run out. It’s a temporary extension through June 2 that gives House and Senate Democrats time to iron out a measure to fund the program through the end of the year.

Fewer than 1 in 3 House Republicans voted for the measure. Just three Senate Republicans did. The sole Democrat to oppose it was longtime budget hawk Rep. Jim Cooper of Tennessee.

The bill also extends a program created under last year’s economic stimulus bill that gives unemployed people a 65 percent subsidy on health care premiums under the so-called COBRA program.

On successive votes earlier in the day, Democrats narrowly turned back two amendments by Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., that would have paid for the measure over time by cutting spending and raising almost $10 billion in revenues with a variety of Democratic-backed ideas to tighten the tax code. One of Coburn’s amendments was killed by a 50-48 vote.

The topic of providing additional weeks of jobless benefits in the midst of bad times had been regarded as routine. But with conservative voters and tea party activists up in arms about the deficit, conservative Senate Republicans upset about the deficit have twice caused interruptions of jobless benefits and other programs.

In February, Jim Bunning, R-Ky., single-handedly blocked an extension of unemployment benefits in an unsuccessful bid to force Democrats to pay for them. The measure passed on a 78-19 vote after Republicans were smacked by a public relations backlash.

But many Republicans believe it was a stand worth taking, including Coburn, who blocked a vote last month on another short-term extension.

By the time Senators returned from a two-week recess on Monday, only four Republicans — Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine, Scott Brown of Massachusetts and George Voinovich of Ohio — voted with Democrats to defeat a GOP filibuster of the bill. Only Voinovich, Collins and Snowe voted for the bill on Thursday.

Democrats said it was the wrong topic for Republicans to take a stand on the deficit after voting for tax cuts, wars and a new Medicare drug benefit without paying for them.

“They seem to have discovered fiscal responsibility when it comes time to extend unemployment benefits but not when it came to paying for tax cuts for the rich and the Iraq war,” said Rep. Sander Levin, D-Mich.

Twenty-one Senate Republicans voted for the earlier extension last month and House GOP leaders opted against even forcing a vote. But Thursday’s vote came after senators spent two weeks among their constituents — and as thousands of tea party activists came to Washington to protest on deadline day for filing taxes.

“I think people spent two weeks out listening to people about spending and debt,” Coburn said.

The House has twice this year approved short-term extensions of jobless benefits and other expired programs.

The various programs in the longer-term legislation represent much of the Democrats’ remaining agenda on job creation. One of the reasons the short-term legislation was needed is that House and Senate Democrats are having difficulty resolving their differences on how to pay for a package of expired tax breaks for individuals and businesses.

Other elements of the jobs agenda such as cash to build roads and schools and help local governments keep teachers on the payroll, remain on the shelf for a lack of money to pay for them.

Democrats said deficit-financed jobless benefits not only needed to help people unable to find work but that they are one of the most effective ways to pump up the still-struggling economy.



  1. nancy April 16, 2010 at 8:15 a.m.

    what a joke – you continue to give people unemployment and they will never go back to work!

  2. jimmy hoffa April 16, 2010 at 8:26 a.m.

    I’m getting addicted to my govt. cheese-now pay up FOOL. what cracks me up is all the trillions that goes to the banks with no argument but people like Nancy complain about help for the working man. Shouldn’t you be at a Tea-Bagging Party, Nanc? O-BA-MA O-BA-MA!

  3. James April 16, 2010 at 9:19 a.m.

    “It increases the deficit by $18 billion, a cost to be paid for by future generations,” said Rep. Jerry Moran, R-Kan. “This legislation is yet another unfortunate example of business as usual in our nation’s capital.”
    I am disgusted by Moran’s comments regarding unemployment. I find it ironic that Moran supported the Big Bank Bailout but will not support the tax paying citizens of America.
    Thanks Moran – or should I say Moron.

  4. Alex April 16, 2010 at 9:20 a.m.

    Hey Jimmy:
    More compelling arguments and less name-calling, please. It diminshes whatever credibilty you had to begin with and only signifies that those on the right have gotten well under your skin. BTW, shouldn’t you be underneath the goal post at Giants Stadium? ;)

  5. James April 16, 2010 at 9:45 a.m.

    nancy | April 16, 2010 8:15 AM | Reply
    what a joke – you continue to give people unemployment and they will never go back to work!
    Unfortunately Nancy doesn’t have the ability to do basic math.

  6. Greg April 16, 2010 at 10:14 a.m.

    According to the Concise Encyclopedia of Economics, first published in 1999:
    “The second way government assistance programs contribute to long-term unemployment is by providing an incentive, and the means, not to work. Each unemployed person has a ‘reservation wage’—the minimum wage he or she insists on getting before accepting a job. Unemployment insurance and other social assistance programs increase [the] reservation wage, causing an unemployed person to remain unemployed longer.”
    Lawrence H. Summers, the current White House economic adviser

  7. Joeschmo April 16, 2010 at 10:23 a.m.

    The average compensation is $335. Let’d do the basic math: McDonald’s is hiring (Taco Bell, KFC, K-mart, etc). Minimum wage in Chicago is what, $9 an hour? 9 x 40= $360. After taxes, about $320.00. And normally you get a raise (with good performance) after 60 days, thus increasing the bottom line.
    So, -why are we providing unemployment benefits when there ARE jobs out there paying just about the same if not more? Oh, wait, that’s right…you’re too GOOD to work a blue-collar job because of all those years of school.

  8. James April 16, 2010 at 10:37 a.m.

    @ Joeschmo | April 16, 2010 10:23 AM | Reply
    The average compensation is $335. Let’d do the basic math: McDonald’s is hiring (Taco Bell, KFC, K-mart, etc). Minimum wage in Chicago is what, $9 an hour? 9 x 40= $360. After taxes, about $320.00. And normally you get a raise (with good performance) after 60 days, thus increasing the bottom line.
    So, -why are we providing unemployment benefits when there ARE jobs out there paying just about the same if not more? Oh, wait, that’s right…you’re too GOOD to work a blue-collar job because of all those years of school.
    There ARE NOT jobs out there. Even if there are, as you say, at McDonalds, Taco Bell, KFC etc. you will not be hired to do a low skill job. Companies are not going to make an investment in an employee that will leave once the job market opens up.

  9. 44Skate April 16, 2010 at 10:50 a.m.

    The only way people will get back in their respective job forces is if the US BANS job outsourcing to India, Philippines, Poland, Russia, and any other country whose taken American jobs away from Americans. So, I agree, go back to work at Macs, Taco Smell, or any other fast-food/retail place. These out-of-workers are getting free money for too long…and NOT paying taxes.

  10. James April 16, 2010 at 10:55 a.m.

    The money is not free. I have paid into the tax system for many years and still do. Again, just like Nancy, basic math is not your strongest skill set.

  11. 44Skate April 16, 2010 at 11:00 a.m.

    When you don’t work…but get money for it…it’s called free.

  12. ethan April 16, 2010 at 11:00 a.m.

    I think the bigger picture here is the unemployment rate, currently averaging 9.7% depending on whom you believe.
    Personally, I find it quite distasteful that our government is spending time debating unemployment benefits when they should be focsuing on job creation (and I’m not talking government jobs via the Consumer Financial Protection Agency either). I think the POTUS and Congress are lost in the dark on this issue and that’s why we’re hearing a lot of junk about Health Insurance Reform, Cap & Trade, Immigration, et al. While these issues are certainly important, the driver RIGHT now must be about job creation in the private sector.
    Our government needs to get off the pot and start taking action to get the country moving forward again. If green technologies and hi-speed rail are it, then do it. Back the wind farms, back the photo-voltaic market, back a true hi-speed rail system that travels across states. Support companies that re-tool themselves to make the products for these ideas and tax the crap out of companies that import these same products from foreign shores. If the jobs are here, the unemployment rates drop, and the issue of extending unemployment benefits goes away. Lets get the employment numbers right and then go back to the so-called social agenda items.

  13. James April 16, 2010 at 11:03 a.m.

    So what you are saying is any type of insurance claim is FREE money?
    Not where I am from and I would bet not where you are from.

  14. 44Skate April 16, 2010 at 11:06 a.m.

    At my workplace, there are approximately 20 “outsourced” workers on one of the floors. Sure, they are spending dollars while living here…but they all send money back to their home country.
    These are 20 positions which could be filled by American citizens.

  15. 44Skate April 16, 2010 at 11:17 a.m.

    You’re not understanding my issue.
    If you’re at home watching Oprah or Jerry Springer, then you go out to your mailbox and in it has a government check for $350, that’s free money.
    If you are working at Macs, Target, or Jewel…and (today) it’s Friday and you get your weekly check, that’s not free money–you worked for it.

  16. indy April 16, 2010 at 11:28 a.m.

    This bill also eliminated a 21% cut in pay to doctors. That cut in pay is the only thing that kept the HC bill deficit neutral.
    So, now Obamacare will be MORE expensive AND complicate medical payment issues. Great.

  17. James April 16, 2010 at 11:36 a.m.

    I am undestanding your issue.
    What you are telling me is, when it comes time to collect Social Security, you will not accept it because it’s free. As in, you sit home watching Oprah and in your mail box sits a check from the gvt.
    Since you are so adamantly against collecting money while not working I guess you will just donate your SSI benefits to a charity of your choice.

  18. POB April 16, 2010 at 11:50 a.m.

    Illinois (along with the other nanny states) is among the states with the highest un-employment in the country. Although an um-employment extension is a stop-gap to help folks float for now. There are no new job prospects on the horizon.
    We have a consumer based economy, unfortunately our government and businesses HATE consumers. Businesses say we’re too expensive, they continue to bring in H1B visa holders or just simply outsource the jobs to low cost countries. The problem is they also put THEIR consumers out of work. The consumer base is eroding daily. People who are petrified of losing or have lost their jobs are NOT going to buy a car, house, furnace, appliances, electronics, cable tv, or other non-essentials. The for sure will not be taking vacations. Restaurants will also suffer, now even Mc Donalds is considered a luxury.
    Government jobs are NOT the answer. Each and every government worker is a drain on the economy. They need tax $$ to pay for those services.
    It’s time this country got back to basics. We need to MAKE things again. Not push paper, shopping carts or fast food. The so called “service economy” is a joke. This country needs to ditch the unions, start building up it’s manufacturing base and get AMERICANS back to work making things.

  19. peanutbutter April 16, 2010 at 12:00 pm

    What will the unemployment numbers look like once all the teachers in Illinois who have been given pink slips head to the unemployment office????
    There are literally thousands of teachers in Illinois whose contracts have NOT been renewed for next year….
    Note to Nancy, the $300/wk at my house ONLY allows the mortgage to be paid….PUT THE AMERICANS BACK TO WORK.

  20. superdave April 18, 2010 at 12:34 a.m.

    Nancy, obviously you are fortunate enough to be employed. FYI, I am 40 y/o and in my entire adult life, I have NEVER been on unemployment until my plant closed in 2006. I went to college and earned an associates degree. I have been looking for a job but there are none in my area. I know what you’re thinking, go elsewhere for work. That’s fine but what about my disabled mother and father? what are they going to do while I’m out of state working? As far as me getting “free” money, I have paid into this system since I have been old enough to work so it’s not free! I wonder if you would feel the same way if it were you depending on the $324 a week that I am? I really doubt it and I hope you don’t have to find out what it’s like because I don’t think you could handle it. It is humiliating to say the least!

  21. superdave April 18, 2010 at 12:42 a.m.

    I’m with you James,I’d like to see 44skate donate his free ssi check to a charity and I think he should, since he won’t be working for it and sitting around watching oprah and springer. These people just don’t understand how things work and are part of the reason this country is in the shape it is. I feel so sorry for the next generation