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Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Reps. Lee and Scott vow to re-introduce HR-6556 in 112th Congress for 99ers; chance for passage low

Current Chair, Barbara LeeImage via Wikipedia
Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) introduced
 a bill-HR-6556-with co-sponsor Rep.
Scott for the 99ers in the last
lame-duck session.

Fate for a unemployment bill for 99ers exhausted from all forms of supplemental jobless benefits were ‘some-what’ renewed on January 4th as Representatives Bobby Scott (D-VA) and Barbara Lee (D-CA) vowed to push for additional weeks of jobless benefits for 99ers, according to a guest column in the Richmond (Virginia) Times Dispatch.

The representatives co-wrote the column which focused on explaining on why the measure ‘HR-6556-The Emergency Unemployment Compensation Act’ must be re-introduced and the importance of the legislation to unemployed 99ers.

“The tax compromise President Obama recently negotiated with Republicans extended unemployment benefits for many people. But it didn't help the long-term unemployed, people who have exhausted their available weeks of state and federal unemployment benefits, equaling 99 weeks in roughly half of all states”, Representatives Lee and Scott wrote.  
“That is why we recently introduced a bill to help these "99ers" and others who have exhausted their unemployment benefits, by adding another 14 weeks of benefits they can receive. This extension won't solve everything, but it will provide them vital extra time to find work as the economy slowly improves”, they cited. 
Representative Barbara Lee introduced HR-6556 on December 20th, at the noted ‘lame-duck’ session. The bill would have added 14 weeks of federal unemployment benefits to those who had exhausted their benefits. With the legislation introduced so late into the lame-ducks, many wondered if the legislation was just another empty gesture, similar to 99ers bills introduced in 2010.

Photo Credit-Google Images
Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA)
One such bill 99ers were placing support behind was HR-3706-‘The Americans Want to Work Act by Senator Debbie Stabenow.  The measure was filibustered on September 30th by former Senator George LeMieux (Fr.-R-FL) citing deficit concerns. After the filibuster, the bill was send to the Senate Finance Committee was not brought back to the floor by Senator Stabenow or other Democrats in the Senate.

Lee and Scott defended the intent of HR-6556 in the Times-Dispatch column.
“While some may call this bill an empty gesture, in our view there is nothing "empty" about helping hard-working Americans. We suggested that the provisions of this bill — also a part of the alternative proposed by the Congressional Black Caucus — be added to the president's original tax compromise, but it was not accepted”, they cited.
Although a valiant effort by Lee and Scott, the reality comes back to the actions in the former 111th Congress, which Republicans repeatedly blocked the extension of federal unemployment benefits to payees under 99 weeks several times in 2010, due to cost added to the federal budget deficit. In the 112th Congress Republicans control both the House of Representatives and internal committees.  

Noting this, it is doubtful that any bill to expand federal unemployment benefits in the GOP lead House for the 99ers would even make it out of committee let alone on to the House floor for a vote.

The 112th Congress begins this afternoon. New Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) has announced that of his first priorities will be to repeal health care reform and cut $100 billion from the federal budget.

Both Representatives Scott and Lee admit that the bill is a long shot.
“We know we have a tough road ahead, but after all, it is the season of miracles. With your support, we can help these conservative "Grinches" grow hearts and vote to help these hard-working Americans get back on their feet”, Lee and Scott wrote. “Extending unemployment benefits to buy a little more time for the "99ers" and other exhaustees is the least we can do”, they wrote.
But 99ers do not need ‘miracles’, they need either a job and/or income assistance. Representatives Lee and Scott are both seasoned legislators in Congress. Both should have known to introduce a 99ers bill so late into the ‘lame-duck’ session, without the full cost of the measure or proposal for cuts elsewhere in the budget, HR-6556 was dead in the water.

To pen an article on re-introducing a 99er bill in the 112th Congress was nice but, Lee and Scott know full well that the chances of passage are slim to none with the Republicans in charge of the House. 

The Democratic Representatives should have co-authored the bill earlier in the 111th Congress; especially since the unemployed American Job Seeking 99ers have been without any form on jobless assistance since April 2010.

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