Unemployed Americans Kicked Out of Capitol, Forced to Share Their Stories Outside
by Jessica Schieder, 5/10/2014
Six hard-working Americans joined House Democrats gathered at the Capitol on Tuesday afternoon to share stories of their struggle to find employment in a rough job market. The event, which was scheduled to take place inside the Capitol as a hearing, was abruptly cancelled by House Republican leadership. This forced the unemployed workers and dozens of supporters to relocate the event at the last moment.
“They don't even want to hear the truth -- that's why they kicked us out of the Rayburn room in the People's House on Capitol Hill,” said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) in her introductory remarks.
Despite the last-minute shake up, the event highlighted some amazing stories from a highly educated group of Americans with dozens of years of work experience and professional expertise.
The speakers were among the almost 2.7 million Americans who have been cut off from Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC) benefits since late December 2013. The Senate has passed a bill that would retroactively pay out benefits, but House leadership has continued to block a vote on the issue.
House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) has been adamant that the unemployment insurance bill not advance to the House Floor for a vote, despite requests from Democrats and seven courageous Republicans – including Reps. Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ), Peter King (R-NY), Christopher Smith (R-NJ), Christopher Gibson (R-NY), Michael Grimm (R-NY), Joseph Heck (R-NV), and Jon Runyan (R-NJ) – who have signed a letter asking Boehner to immediately consider the Senate-passed bill. In addition, 193 House members – all Democrats – have signed a discharge petition to force a vote on H. Res. 490, legislation that would extend emergency unemployment benefits. An absolute majority – 218 votes for the petition - is required to force a vote.
Secretary of Labor Tom Perez entered the discussion on EUC benefits this week in a letter addressed directly to Boehner. In the letter, Perez said, “EUC is itself an effective job creation tool… failing to extend UI benefits puts a dent in job-seekers’ incomes, reduces demand and will cost an estimated 240,000 jobs in 2014.”
In the Senate, Senator Dean Heller (R-NV) is strategically considering tying the unemployment insurance extension to a recently approved $85 billion package of mostly corporate giveaways called “tax extenders” that will be debated next week. As Republicans are expected to support the passage of the tax extenders, tying together the two issues could reenergize debate on unemployment compensation.
The longer the battle for extending EUC benefits goes on, the more people will join the rolls of the unemployed and unassisted. Congressional leaders are clearly feeling pressure to take action, but it remains unclear whether Boehner can be convinced to allow a vote, even though many believe a bill to extend unemployment insurance would receive enough bipartisan support to pass.
View footage from the event and the voices of the unemployed below.
The Center for Effective Government continues to collect stories of the long-term unemployed and deliver them to representatives in Washington, DC. To share your story and view our featured “Stories from the Long-Term Unemployed,” please use the links below.
The following are resources to make sure politicians continue to hear your voice on emergency unemployment compensation (EUC):
- Urge your representative to support the unemployment extension when the issue comes up in the House by entering your zip code here. You’ll be directed to a letter put together by the Half in Ten campaign.
- Call your representative using this number, provided by the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME): 877-363-6141.
- Share your story via our web form here, which we will share with representatives and journalists to highlight the urgency of renewing unemployment insurance.
- Join our Google Group to share stories and resources with others who are either unemployed or passionate about the issue.
- Stay in touch with the Center for Effective Government by signing up for our e-mail updates and action alerts here.
- Find links to the Center for Effective Government's recent blog posts on unemployment insurance here.
For Further Reading:
Emergency Unemployment Benefits Bill Passes the Senate, Increasing Pressure on the House, The Fine Print blog, April 8, 2014
Stories of Americans Cut Off of Emergency Unemployment Compensation, Government Matters, April 22, 2014
Emergency Unemployment Extension Expected to Take Back Seat to Tax Extenders, The Fine Print blog, April 25, 2014
Technically Speaking: Making Sense of Discharge Petitions, Cloture and Filibusters, The Fine Print blog, May 5, 2014
Unemployed Americans Kicked Out of Capitol, Forced to Share Their Stories Outside, The Fine Print, May 10, 2014
Six Months after Emergency Unemployment Benefits Expired, 2.8 Million Americans Left Behind, The Fine Print, May 20, 2014