No more unemployment benefits for millions of Americans

Posted on June 25, 2010

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Ed Shultz and Tom Harkin Talk Failure of Unemployment Bill on The Ed Show

MSNBC

SCHULTZ: And in my Playbook tonight, senate republicans once again blocked legislation to extend unemployment benefits. The vote less than an hour ago was 57 to 41. Hold it right there. Fifty seven people in the senate want to help those folks out there that don‘t have benefits and that‘s not enough the way it‘s set up. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is feeling defeated.

Harry Reid, Senate Majority Leader: We‘ve heard enough here today about unemployment compensation. These are real people, these aren‘t numbers. These are people. This is Bob and Mary and Jane and Dave who are desperate for these little checks they get every week. And so we have mayors, we have governors who have spoken out but the republicans have turned a deaf ear.

SCHULTZ: Well, this just tells all of us who the republicans really are. More than a million, more than a million Americans will have lost their unemployment insurance by the end of this month, and the righties just don‘t care, it‘s all about the money. But even if the bill had passed, it would not have helped the 99ers. Folks who have already exhausted their unemployment benefits and have been out of work for more than 99 weeks. A group of 99ers wrote a letter to the President of United States and have been trying to get an elected official in Congress to deliver it directly to the president. They have been told it‘s hopeless. Well, I promise that I would not let this issue go, and if no elected official is going to step up and give these folks a voice, I guess I have to.

Mr. President, the 99ers are begging. I‘ve been out on the road. I‘ve talked to them. They are begging for help. And I‘m asking you tonight to do something executively. Make it a big issue and step forward, and if the republicans won‘t do it, paint it for who they are and what they‘re doing to Americans who have been outsourced and are now stuck with this predicament. I mean, people are losing their homes because they lost their job, and remember, this is the worst economy since the ‘30s, but the republicans, oh, no, it‘s all about the money. Heck, they‘re trying to negotiate tax breaks again for the top two percent.

Let me turn to a Senator from Iowa, Tom Harkin, Chairman of the Senate Health Committee. Senator, good to have you with us tonight. I could go on for 20 minutes but I need two minutes from you. What in the hell is going on in the senate?

SEN. TOM HARKIN (D), IOWA: Well, Ed, I share your frustration and your anger. This is the eighth week that we‘ve tried to get through the unemployment benefits. For eight straight weeks, republicans have said no. And Harry Reid is right. This is about people who just want to put food on their table, feed their kids, just get by from week to week. They‘re not living high on the hog, and in fact, as you pointed out, the 99ers aren‘t getting anything at all. I can‘t tell you how frustrated we are in this. The republicans, what they‘re saying is they want to protect the tax benefits for the wealthiest one-half of one percent but we can‘t help the people who are out of work, and needs just a helping hand, a couple of hundred bucks just to get through a week.

SCHULTZ: Senator, is it over? Is this issue done?

HARKIN: Well, we‘ve tried for eight weeks. The republicans have consistently said no. I just talked to the leader. I think we may try it one more time next week before the fourth of July, but it looks like the republicans are unyielding. They will not let us get unemployment benefits to people who are out of work, and that, Ed, is unconscionable. In my 35 years here, I have never seen anything like this. Never.

SCHULTZ: A record number of filibusters and this is obstruction on steroids, is it not?

HARKIN: It is. I mean, we can‘t do anything, Ed. I mean, I can understand maybe they want to filibuster the health care bill, this and that, but these are people that are out of work. They have nothing. There is nothing there for them and we‘re just trying to get them through the roughest period of economic downturn, as you pointed out, since the depression, and the republicans are saying no. It‘s unconscionable.

SCHULTZ: Senator, I know how where your heart is and I know hard you‘ve worked on this, I appreciate it so much. Let‘s keep up the fight.

HARKIN: We are. We are.

SCHULTZ: And let me ask you before we go here. How adamant is the president about this? He‘s been somewhat quiet about it. What is he saying and in your opinion, what could he do, if anything?

HARKIN: Well, he needs to let the American people know what‘s going on here, but obviously he‘s been distracted with McChrystal, in Afghanistan and all that kind of stuff, but he‘s got to turn his attention to this and turn to it very soon and he‘s got to use the bulletproof to the White House to let the American people know why we‘re not getting these unemployment benefits out to people who really need them.

SCHULTZ: Senator, good to have you with us tonight. Thanks for speaking out. I appreciate it.

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