October 27,2009

Baucus Floor Statement Regarding Unemployment Insurance

Mr. President, the unemployment rate is now 9.8 percent. Before long, economists expect it to top 10 percent.

That means that nearly 15 million Americans have lost their jobs. That’s 15 million people looking for work. About 5 million people have been looking for work for more than 6 months.

There are about 3 million job openings. That’s 15 million people chasing 3 million jobs.

We are in what folks call the Great Recession. Real people are facing real hardships, every day.

On September 15, the Finance Committee held a hearing on Unemployment Insurance benefits and where we go from here. Senators discussed the effects of the current condition on beneficiaries, the business community, and state unemployment systems. We considered proposals to support unemployed workers through the continuing recession.

A recent edition of the Federal Reserve’s Beige Book reported that the economy is stabilizing.Unfortunately, the labor market still remains week. Companies are being cautious about adding permanent staff. Instead, they are asking more from their existing staff.

We need to continue our work to create jobs. And we also need to help our neighbors who arelooking for work. That’s what we did in the Recovery Act.

We need to act on behalf of unemployed Americans and their communities. In helping our unemployed neighbors, we also help to keep open the neighborhood grocery store, and theneighborhood gas station. In helping our unemployed neighbors, we also help to keep housesout of foreclosure. And in helping our unemployed neighbors, we also help our economy, and ourselves.

The House passed a bill to give an additional 13 weeks of benefits to unemployed people instates with unemployment rates of 8.5 percent or more. I commend our Colleagues in the House for their rapid response. But Leader Reid and I want to make sure that all Americans who have exhausted their benefits during these tough times get help.

Today we are joined by Senators Reed of Rhode Island, Shaheen, Dodd, and a total of 38 Senators in all, in offering an amendment to the House bill.

Our amendment would give 14 additional weeks of benefits to unemployed people who exhaust their benefits, no matter what state they live in. And our amendment would also give six additional weeks of benefits on top of that to unemployed people who exhaust their benefits in states with 8.5 percent unemployment or more.

The total cost of our package is $2.4 billion. It’s paid for with an extension of the Federal Unemployment Tax, or FUTA, until June 30, 2011.

Today, we have a chance to lend support to unemployed Americans. And in so doing, we have a chance to help our economy and ourselves. But first, we have to proceed to the bill. I urge my Colleagues to support this important legislation and vote for the motion to invoke cloture.