Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Voinovich on Unemployment Benefits Extension

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator George V. Voinovich (R-Ohio), ranking member of the Senate Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee, today released the following statement on the stand-alone unemployment insurance extension:

“Over the past two years, our nation has borrowed $123 billion to pay for unemployment insurance extensions, our national debt will have increased by almost $4 trillion, and Democrats have passed a $2 trillion health care bill as well as a stimulus bill now estimated to cost more than $860 billion. Too many of my Democratic colleagues have tried to portray Republicans as being opposed to providing assistance to workers suffering during this recession – but they know that accusation is not true.

“We have simply asked that we start to do the same thing families around the nation are doing – make tough choices about our finances. Enough is enough – we must address our out-of-control spending. Unfortunately my Democratic colleagues recently blocked an amendment, offered by Sen. John Thune, which would have paid for the unemployment insurance extension without borrowing money on the credit card of our children and grandchildren.

“Prior to the July 4th recess I approached Majority Leader Harry Reid and said I would vote for extending unemployment insurance if Democrats would be willing to use $15 billion of the estimated $40 billion in unspent stimulus monies to pay for half of the stand-alone unemployment insurance extension. He rejected my offer even though Democratic leadership was going to take $10 billion from the stimulus to help pay for business tax breaks just days earlier. If Leader Reid had accepted my compromise instead of playing political games, this extension would have passed two weeks ago – averting much of the suffering and uncertainty that has plagued those who receive unemployment insurance.

“The fact is most Americans would rather have a job than collect unemployment insurance. In spite of extension after extension, as well as the passage of the stimulus bill in February 2009, people are still asking ‘Where are the jobs?” The answer is right in front of us: pass a robust surface transportation reauthorization bill. The transportation construction industry supports more than 3 million American jobs. Unfortunately, this sector of our economy is in its worst condition since World War II – unemployment is a staggering 20 percent, two times the general U.S. unemployment rate of 9.5 percent.

“President Obama and Leader Reid are on the stump talking about creating jobs and extending unemployment insurance, but they are in the bunker when it comes to the highway bill. I cannot understand how they can continue to ignore this issue at a time when unemployment continues to grow and we have a proven job creator at our fingertips. We must put political gamesmanship aside and put Americans back to work, just like President Reagan had the courage to do in 1982