2002-11-30 / Community

The ‘House’ That Stole Christmas

Commentary By Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton

The 'House' That Stole Christmas
Commentary By Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton

This year it wasn't the Grinch who stole Christmas; it was the House Republican leadership. For the first time since last March, we had bipartisan support in both bodies of Congress for a meaningful unemployment insurance extension bill.

Instead of building on this good will and using it to spread good cheer and economic growth this holiday season, the House Republican Leadership refused to debate this legislation on the merits. They put process ahead of progress, and politics ahead of the American people.

At the end of December, more than two million Americans who are searching for jobs will lose their unemployment benefits. Instead of celebrating the approach of a new year, for them the New Years Eve countdown will conclude a very grim year. 

Last week, I worked with Senate colleagues, including co-sponsors Peter Fitzgerald (R) from Illinois, Arlen Specter (R) from Pennsylvania, and Maria Cantwell (D) from Washington, and received support from Senate leaders, Senators Don Nickles (R) of Oklahoma, Tom Daschle (D) of South Dakota, to find common ground and pass reasonable, affordable legislation that would benefit as many Americans as possible. 

The Senate version passed last week would allow Americans to continue to qualify for emergency benefits until March 29th. It would reach more than 2 million Americans, and 177,000 New Yorkers, who are concerned about losing the income they depend on. Our bill helps families in all 50 states, and allows people to qualify for a full 13-week extension. 

I want to thank my colleagues in the House who did rise today and have asked on a number of occasions to pass our bill. They understand that extending unemployment insurance is not only the right thing to do for Americans in tough economic times, it is smart economic policy. Every dollar we provide to the unemployed will immediately be put to good use.  The recipients will use it for rent. They will pay their utility bills. And they will buy food and clothes for their children. According to the Department of Labor, every dollar invested in unemployment insurance generates $2.15 to our economy. 

In the recession, during the 1990's, we increased unemployment benefits five times. Today, our long-term unemployment numbers are even higher than the deepest moments of the recession in the early 90's and Congress has extended benefits only once-and once is not enough.

We had the chance to transform their New Years Eve countdown from a solemn moment into one of hope in a difficult year, but today the House Republican leadership passed it up. This year, the Senate and House should make a joint New Years resolution: to pass a meaningful extension of unemployment benefits during the first minute of the first day of the 108th Congress.


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