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Ms. STABENOW. Will the Senator yield for a question?
Mr. DURBIN. I am happy to yield to the Senator from Michigan.
Ms. STABENOW. Mr. President, from the Senator's explanation and from what we have been working on, I want the Senator to clarify two things.
First of all, we could do this conference report today if there were a willingness and, secondly, we have a pay raise for our troops that is coming right before Christmas, the holidays, help for families, help for those who have lost their jobs and are trying to figure out how they keep their health care going, and help for people who are trying to put food on the table for the holidays; is that correct? I ask the Senator to expand. As I understand it, we could actually get this done today and give people some peace of mind going into the holidays.
Mr. DURBIN. I say to the Senator from Michigan, yes, we could enter into a consent agreement now and pass this conference report without controversy, and I bet you it would get a unanimous vote.
As the Senator from Michigan described this, everybody here wants to make sure we take care of our troops. We received a unanimous vote, if memory serves me, the last time we extended unemployment benefits. I think most Members want to stand up and help those who are unemployed through this difficult time of unemployment in our country.
If there ever were a bill to bring us together in those two areas--helping our troops and helping the unemployed--this is the bill.
Ms. STABENOW. Mr. President, I wish to ask another question of the Senator from Illinois. If, in fact, the Senator from Illinois is finding the same thing I am right now--certainly, we have the highest unemployment rate in Michigan--and we are hearing it from all over the country; we are hearing from people that their unemployment benefits are about to expire. They are trying to figure out how they are going to make it through the next few months.
There are particular concerns that if we do not extend it by the end of the year that, in fact, many will have to go out and resign up with a new bureaucracy to continue benefits.
I wonder if the Senator has heard the same kinds of concerns and sense of urgency people have about being able to keep a roof over their head, keep food on the table, and keep their health care going--the same sense of urgency that I know we are feeling from people in Michigan?
Mr. DURBIN. I say in response to the Senator from Michigan, through the Chair, that I am happy to read the latest unemployment statistics showing the number of people declared unemployed each month is going down. We will not feel good about it until it is turned around and we are creating jobs again, which I hope is soon.
In the meantime, we have about six unemployed people for every job that is available. These people are in a market that is terrible, and they are trying their best. Some have gone back to school. Some are getting training courses. Some are trying to keep things together with their family and not lose their home because of unemployment.
I am sure the Senator from Michigan has met with the unemployed in Michigan, as I have in Illinois. Some are, little by little, exhausting the savings they have. Even with COBRA, many people find the COBRA provision, which gives people a chance to buy insurance at discounts, is still too expensive. They are without a job. They are running the risk of losing their home. They are without health insurance for their children and are desperately looking for a job. We certainly do not want to put them in a situation where there is a question mark as to whether after December 31 the unemployment check will be there next month. I think it is that peace of mind we owe these folks caught up in the bad circumstances of our economy.
Ms. STABENOW. If I may conclude, to clarify, we can get this done today. We can create that peace of mind for families going into the holidays, going into Christmas, into the end of the year. We could actually do that today in the next few hours?
Mr. DURBIN. That is correct, I say to the Senator from Michigan, we can. Earlier we were embroiled in the reading of an amendment that would have literally consumed the entire day and forced us into another day's time and run the risk of not providing money for the troops when the continuing resolution, the funding resolution, ran out.
The Senator from Vermont withdrew his amendment, and now we have moved to this bill. But there is nothing stopping us. A consent agreement can be entered into by both sides of the aisle that can move this through quickly and say to our troops: We are with you.
I yield to the Senator from Rhode Island.
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