With millions of people unemployed, why did it take so long for Congress to approve an extension OF unemployment benefits?
On July 22, President Barack Obama signed into law a bill that extends unemployment insurance for millions of Americans who have lost their jobs.
Congress, of course, is made up of the Senate and the House. Until both chambers agree, we can’t accomplish anything. That’s why it was so maddening that Senate Republicans held up the extension of benefits for seven weeks.
In the House, Democrats are all too aware of the suffering that American families are going through, and how important benefits are to those families who have lost their jobs. Let me be clear: extending unemployment benefits is not a long-term solution to our economic woes. Putting America back to work is how we measure success.
But with so many Americans out of work, it should have been a no-brainer to provide those suffering families with the help they need. Unfortunately, not everyone agreed.
Not only do unemployment benefits help millions of families get back on their feet and find work, they’re a powerful economic stimulus. Economist Mark Zandi, former adviser to Sen. John McCain, reports that for every $1 in unemployment benefits, the economy sees more than $1.60 in economic activity.
By passing this bill, we were investing not only in families, but in our national economy as well.
As I write this, I’m preparing to return to Washington for an emergency session of the House. The Senate, in a bit of a surprise, approved a bill that would provide $16.1 billion to help meet Medicaid payments and $10 billion to prevent teacher layoffs. Those funds, which are fully paid for by closing corporate tax loopholes, are expected to save 140,000 teaching jobs (13,500 in California) and save or create another 150,000 jobs for police officers, firefighters and nurses.
In the face of obstruction, congressional Democrats continue to fight for Americans, and I’m proud of the work we’re doing. In the past, GT has spoken with you about the need for more child and school nutrition legislation. Any new updates?
On July 15, the House Committee on Education and Labor voted 32 to 13 to send the Improving Nutrition for America’s Children Act to the House for consideration.
As I’ve said before, reauthorizing the Child Nutrition Act needs to be a top priority for Congress. This bill will improve the nutritional quality of meals in schools and childcare and expand access to healthy food to millions of children.
Today, more than one in five children lack access to healthy food, and one in three children are overweight or obese. More than 32 million children rely on federal child nutrition programs, so it’s no exaggeration to say we hold the future of an entire generation in our hands.
Language I wrote to promote the use of salad bars in schools will be included in the bill debated on the House floor, and I’m confident of the bill’s final approval. This is an issue we delay acting on at our own peril.
What are your plans for the summer recess?
I expect another exciting summer, though maybe not quite as boisterous as last year. With health insurance reform now the law of the land, I think I’ll be hearing a lot more about the economy, and rightfully so. While Congress and President Obama have done a lot to keep the economy from getting worse, we’re still not seeing the level of improvement we were hoping for.
The unemployment rate is improving, but too slowly for my taste. And while the country is creating tens of thousands of jobs each month (compared to the loss of more than 750,000 jobs a month under President George W. Bush), we still have a lot of room to improve.
As I have for the last 17 years, I’ll once again be hosting town halls throughout the Central Coast this summer. I value these listening sessions and hope as many people as possible will join me.
This year I’ll be hosting my Santa Cruz town hall at 6 p.m., Sept. 2. It will be held at the First Congregational Church at 900 High St. Again, I encourage you to join me and offer your thoughts.