Day 1: Senate Minority Uses Filibuster to Hold Hostage Benefits of 2 Million Americans

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  • Dale Eisman

A riddle: Who would spend $700 on a friend who doesn’t need it while refusing to give $65 to a friend who does?

Answer: A U.S. Senator, 42 senators actually.

That’s essentially what’s been happening in the Senate for the past week. Forty-two senators are misusing a parliamentary gimmick – the filibuster – to block action on an extension of unemployment benefits for more than 2 million Americans.

“The added benefits would cost the federal treasury $65 billion and provide relief to people who desperately need the money,” said Bob Edgar, Common Cause’s president. “The Senate’s minority would prefer to spend almost 11 times as much — $700 billion — to give a tax cut to people who don’t need it: Americans earning more than $1 million per year.

“This is unconscionable,” Edgar said. “But unemployment benefits are just one of several hostages taken by the Senate’s minority as it makes good on a threat to block action on all legislation until the Obama administration agrees to a tax cut for the wealthy.”

Edgar noted that every day that passes without action on the benefit extension means that thousands more out-of-work Americans see their unemployment compensation expire.

And the latest Labor Department figures demonstrate that the financial squeeze brought on by unemployment is being felt increasingly by the middle class. “Most of the recent increase in joblessness, from 9.6 percent of the labor force in October to 9.8 percent last month, is among those with college degrees. These people are the heart of the middle class and amount to nearly one-third of all American workers,” Edgar said.

This month, Common Cause is spotlighting how filibuster abuse is hijacking the Congress and blocking action on vital national problems. Common Cause is hosting a forum on filibuster reform on Wednesday, Dec. 15 at the National Press Club.