41 Senators Block Checks For Seniors, Disabled Vets, Deny Benefits To Americans Looking For Work
20 million American seniors, 250,000 disabled veterans were to receive $500 checks as part of Finance Committee economic stimulus plan; votes against Baucus bill leaves door open to rebates for illegal immigrants as well
Washington, DC – Forty-one United States Senators today voted to deny $500 economic
stimulus checks to 20 million American seniors living on Social Security and to 250,000 disabled
American veterans. Senators voted at 5:45 today on a package of economic stimulus measures
advanced by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and the Finance panel. The legislation would have included millions more low-income Americans in a tax rebate plan to spur consumer spending, would have provided tax relief to businesses losing money in the economic downturn, and included new efforts to help poor families pay their heating bills. The close vote against the Baucus measure blocked the help for low-income Americans and struggling businesses – all left out of a House-passed stimulus bill – and left open the possibility of tax rebates for illegal immigrants as extra safeguards in the Finance package fell away.
“Twenty million seniors and 250,000 of our disabled veterans were asking the Senate to let
them play a role in reviving our economy. It’s hard to believe that so many Senators could
turn a deaf ear to these good Americans,” Baucus said. “Why on earth would we not move
money into the hands of Americans who need it and who would inject it straight into our sick economy? There was a chance on the table to help low-income seniors and disabled veterans and Americans looking for work, and the Senate frankly blew it tonight.”
The Finance Committee last week approved a Baucus proposal to boost the American economy
with $500 rebates for every American reporting $3000 in wages, Social Security income, or net
self-employment income on a 2007 tax return, with more for married couples and families with
children. Disabled veterans who would not otherwise qualify could receive rebates, too. The
Baucus legislation also extended Federal unemployment insurance benefits for 13 weeks in all
states through December 2008, and provided an additional 13 weeks of benefits in states meeting certain criteria for high unemployment. Additional business tax relief allowed companies losing money in the economic downturn to access quick cash for payroll and expenses. Safeguards in the bill required tax filers to report valid Social Security numbers – which cannot be held by persons in the country illegally – to be eligible for any rebate, including the $300 per child check.
The vote against that package, to which Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid had added help for
low-income families to pay heating bills and for the sagging housing sector, leaves Congress
considering a House-passed economic plan with lower rebates for many Americans, no help for
seniors living on Social Security or for many disabled veterans, no extended unemployment
insurance, no tax relief for businesses reporting financial losses, no heating assistance, and no
safeguards to keep the rebate from going to persons in the country illegally.
“Seniors and veterans and all Americans have reason to be disappointed this evening, and
I’m disappointed right alongside them. Making these good changes tonight would not have
slowed the stimulus plan in any way, but it would certainly have improved it,” Baucus said.
“I’ll fight at every opportunity for Congress to do better by these folks in the future.”
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