Trumka Hits Senate GOP For Blocking Jobless Benefits; Two GOP Reps Try to Push Them With Link to Keystone

WASHINGTON —AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka is sharply criticizing Senate Republicans for their pro-filibuster votes that blocked extension of emergency federal unemployment benefits to more than 1.3 million people.

The GOP demanded other program cuts, notably to the Affordable Care Act – the 2010 health care law – to offset the $6.4 billion cost of extending the benefits for three months retroactive to Jan. 1.  Senate Democrats rejected those demands, but lacked the needed 60 votes to pass the jobless benefits alone, without any offsetting cuts.

The GOP maneuver irked Trumka.  Meanwhile, two House Republicans want to link more jobless benefits to “job-creating” moves, including the Keystone XL pipeline.

“It’s appalling that once again Senate Republicans are refusing to approve an unemployment benefits extension with no strings attached,” Trumka declared.  “Meanwhile millions of people who want to work but cannot find jobs are facing additional weeks without much needed benefits.

“Congress should stop playing games with the lives of working families and pass emergency unemployment insurance before they go home for another recess.  Otherwise working families should force them to go home permanently in November.”

The extended federal jobless benefits are in addition to state jobless benefits, paid for by workers and employers, which range from 20 weeks to 26 weeks.  The extended federal benefits lasted up to 73 weeks afterwards.   They’re particularly valuable to the long-term jobless, who are three of every eight jobless workers.

The Senate quit for the Martin Luther King Birthday recess after failing to resolve its jobless benefits wrangle.  Reps. Charlie Dent, R-Pa., and Mark Meadows, R-N.C., are pushing the issue on reluctant leaders of the GOP-run House by linking jobless aid to Keystone’s construction, a GOP cause.  Keystone is environmentally controversial.

Dent and Meadows proposed a new jobless benefits extension, for a year, in return for three measures that, they claimed, would create jobs.  Keystone is one.

Their extended federal jobless benefits would last for only 14 weeks per person.

Construction unions, which have signed a project labor agreement with the pipeline’s Canadian sponsor to build Keystone, say it would create thousands of jobs.

Other unions call Keystone environmentally damaging.  Dent, citing a State Department environmental impact statement, says Keystone “would potentially support approx-imately 42,100 average annual jobs across the U.S. over a 1-to-2-year construction period” which could translate to “approximately $2.05 billion in earnings.”