News / USA

US Senate Advances Jobless Aid Measure

Sen. Charles Schumer (l), accompanied by Sen. Jeff Merkley, meets with reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, Jan. 7, 2014.
Sen. Charles Schumer (l), accompanied by Sen. Jeff Merkley, meets with reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, Jan. 7, 2014.
Michael Bowman
A bill to revive expired U.S. unemployment compensation has survived an initial test vote in the Senate. President Barack Obama strongly backs the measure, which would extend benefits for the long-term unemployed by three months if passed by both houses of a politically-divided Congress.

Six Senate Republicans voted with a unified Democratic caucus to begin debate on a bill to restart unemployment checks for more than a million Americans who have been jobless for six months.  Those benefits expired at the end of last year, bringing added hardship to struggling families and threatening the nation’s economic recovery, according to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

“Today there is only one job opening for every three people searching," he said.  "Failing to extend unemployment insurance will not just be a hardship for out-of-work Americans, it will be a drag on our economy.  Allowing this important lifeline to lapse will cost 240,000 jobs."

Reid blocked a Republican motion to tie further jobless benefits to a weakening of President Barack Obama’s health care law, and to require budget cuts to offset the costs of the bill. 

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell argued the unemployed would not need government checks if Washington embraced pro-growth economic policies.

“It is time to get away from temporary government programs and give the American people the tools they need to drive an economy that truly works for them and for their families," McConnell said.

Fellow-Republican Senator Jeff Sessions complained the bill would add $6 billion to the federal deficit and do nothing to address the causes of joblessness.

“It is an aspirin for a fever, but the fever has been raging for weeks now," he said. "And we need to deal with the cause of it rather than continuing to treat the symptoms."

The bill’s lone Republican co-sponsor, Senator Dean Heller, said many Americans still need a helping hand.

“These are hard-working individuals who rely on these benefits," he said. "For these benefits to simply vanish without giving families time to plan or figure out alternatives to help them get by, to me, is just not right."

At the White House, Obama hailed the initial Senate vote and urged swift congressional passage of the measure.

“There are a lot of our friends, a lot of our neighbors, who have lost their jobs, and they are working their tails off every single day trying to find a new job," he said. "Now, as the job market keeps getting better, more and more of these folks will find work.  But in the meantime, the [unemployment] insurance keeps them from falling off a [financial] cliff."

If Senate support for the bill holds firm, passage could come by week’s end.  Its fate in the Republican-led House of Representatives is unclear.  After the Senate vote, Speaker John Boehner issued a statement saying a jobless benefits extension should be paid for, and that the House will “remain focused on growing the economy”.

You May Like

Video In Ukraine's Nikishino, No House Untouched by Fighting

Ninety percent of homes in one small village were damaged or destroyed as government forces failed to stop a rebel advance More

Pakistan’s 'Last Self-Declared Jew' Attacked, Detained

Argument about the rights of non-Muslims in Pakistan allegedly results in mob beating well-known Jewish Pakistani More

Turkey Cracks Down on Political Dissent, Again

People daring to engage in political dissent ahead of upcoming general elections could find themselves in jail More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
In Their Own Words: Citizens of Kobanii
X
Mahmoud Bali
March 06, 2015 8:43 PM
Civilians are slowly returning to Kobani, after Kurdish fighters backed by coalition airstrikes fought off a four-month siege of the northern Syrian town by Islamic State militants. VOA Kurdish Service reporter Mahmoud Bali talked to some of those who have returned. We hear about the devastation of Kobani through their own words.
Video

Video In Their Own Words: Citizens of Kobani

Civilians are slowly returning to Kobani, after Kurdish fighters backed by coalition airstrikes fought off a four-month siege of the northern Syrian town by Islamic State militants. VOA Kurdish Service reporter Mahmoud Bali talked to some of those who have returned. We hear about the devastation of Kobani through their own words.
Video

Video In Ukraine's Nikishino, No House Untouched by Fighting

In the village of Nikishino, in eastern Ukraine, recent fighting has brought utter devastation. Ninety percent of the houses are damaged or destroyed after government forces tried and failed to stop rebels advancing on the strategically important town of Debaltseve nearby. Patrick Wells reports for VOA from Nikishino.
Video

Video Crime Scenes Re-Created in 3-D Visualization

Police and prosecutors sometimes resort to re-creations of crime scenes in order to better understand the interaction of all participants in complicated cases. A Swiss institute says advanced virtual reality technology can be used for quality re-creations of events at the moment of the crime. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Sierra Leone Ebola Orphans Face Another Crisis

There's growing concern about the future of an orphanage run by a British charity in Sierra Leone, after a staff member and his wife died this week from Ebola. The Saint George Foundation Orphanage in Freetown is now in quarantine, with more than 20 children and seven staff in lock-down. The BBC has agreed to share Ebola-related material with Voice of America because of the difficulties faced by media organizations reporting the crisis. Clive Myrie reports from Sierra Leone.
Video

Video Growing Concerns Over Whether Myanmar’s Next Elections Will Be Fair

Myanmar has scheduled national elections for November that are also expected to include a landmark referendum on the country's constitution. But there are growing concerns over whether the government is taking the necessary steps to prepare for a free and fair vote. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman was recently in Myanmar and files this report from our Southeast Asia bureau in Bangkok.
Video

Video Nigeria’s Ogonis Divided Over Resuming Oil Production

More than two decades ago, Nigeria’s Ogoni people forced Shell oil company to cease drilling on their land, saying it was polluting the environment. Now, some Ogonis say it’s time for the oil to flow once again. Chris Stein reports from Kegbara Dere, Nigeria.
Video

Video Fuel Shortages in Nigeria Threaten Election Campaigns

Nigeria is suffering a gas shortage as the falling oil price has affected the country’s ability to import and distribute refined fuels. Coming just weeks before scheduled March 28 elections, the shortage could have a big impact on the campaign, as Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA.
Video

Video Report: Human Rights in Annexed Crimea Deteriorating

A new report by Freedom House and the Atlantic Council of the United States says the human rights situation in Crimea has deteriorated since the peninsula was annexed by Russia in March of last year. The report says the new authorities in Crimea are discriminating against minorities, suppressing freedom of expression, and forcing residents to assume Russian citizenship or leave. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video 50 Years Later African-Americans See New Voting Rights Battles Ahead

Thousands of people will gather to mark the 50th anniversary of a historic civil rights march on March 7th in Selma, Alabama. In 1965, dozens of people were seriously injured during the event known as “Bloody Sunday,” after police attacked African-American demonstrators demanding voting rights. VOA’s Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights pioneers who are still fighting for voting rights in Alabama more than 50 years later.
Video

Video Craft Brewers Taking Hold in US Beer Market

Since the 1950’s, the U.S. beer industry has been dominated by a handful of huge breweries. But in recent years, the rapid rise of small craft breweries has changed the American market and, arguably, the way people drink beer. VOA’s Jeff Custer reports.
Video

Video Video Claims to Show Shia Forces in Iraq Executing Sunni Boy

A graphic mobile phone video is spreading on the Internet, claiming to show Iraqi forces or Shia militia executing a handcuffed Sunni boy. Experts have yet to verify the video, but already Islamic State followers are publicizing it across social media, playing on deep-rooted sectarian fears. VOA’s Jeff Seldin reports.
Video

Video Ukrainian Authorities Struggle to Secure a Divided Mariupol

Since last month's cease-fire went into effect, shelling around the port city of Mariupol has decreased, but it is thought pro-Russian separatists remain poised to attack. For the city’s authorities, a major challenge is gaining the trust of residents, while at the same time rooting out informants who are passing sensitive information to the rebels. Patrick Wells reports for VOA.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More