Republicans and conservative “Blue Dog” Democrats forced major cuts in proposals for unemployed Americans in a House bill that passed before Memorial Day and has been stuck in the Senate. To get enough support from the conservative block to win passage of the scaled back bill, the House dropped extending the COBRA subsidy for medical premiums and scuttled $24 billion in aid to states to keep hundreds of thousands of firefighters, teachers and police on the job.
In the Senate, Republicans and some conservative Democrats are fighting the state aid provisions. They killed proposals for extensions to COBRA subsidies and eliminated a $25 weekly unemployment insurance supplement that had been added to regular benefits to help families weather the recession (people who currently receive the supplement will continue to get it, but new applicants won’t). Senate leaders are preparing a smaller jobs bill that could be voted on this week. Both bills extend unemployment benefits through November 2010.
Both versions will have to be reconciled by a House-Senate Conference Committee where some provisions may be restored. “Long-term unemployment is at record levels, and conservatives in Congress won’t even consider $25 per week to help struggling families,” said IAM President Tom Buffenbarger. “And they cut off help with medical premiums that could literally mean life or death for some Americans. The economic recovery everyone is talking about hasn’t happened for millions of families and cutting back on aid to them is the wrong thing to do.”
Click here to tell Congress to extend unemployment benefits and extend the COBRA subsidy.