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Senate Inaction Holds Up Emergency Health Care, Unemployment Assistance, Transportation Funding

Press Release

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Date:
Location: Washington, DC

Just as the U.S. House of Representatives passed emergency legislation to extend critical benefits to out-of-work Americans struggling to put food on the table, stay in their homes, and pay their bills, the Connecticut House Delegation expressed extreme disappointment with the U.S. Senate for holding those benefits hostage.

Today U.S. Senator Jim Bunning (R -- Kentucky) blocked a request by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to move an extension of the unemployment benefits and an assortment of other programs or laws that expire this weekend, thereby faulting on needed benefits for people out of work, struggling to make ends meet.

"The inaction of the Senate is completely unacceptable-- Senator Bunning, a Republican from Kentucky, is holding hostage millions of hard-working Americans who are depending on this extension of unemployment and health care benefits. Families across the country, and here at home in Connecticut, will now face another day of struggle, uncertain if they can afford to pay their mortgage, their heating bills, or for health care, and I think it is a disgrace. Every day that goes by is another affront to our citizens, and represents Republican hypocrisy and obstructionism at its worst," said Rep. Rosa DeLauro. "The House passed this legislation already, and I call upon the Senate to do the same. It is simply the right thing to do. Governor Rell should be talking to her Republican colleagues in the Senate about how to move forward on these issues."

"Connecticut is a small delegation, and we have always prided ourselves on working together across party lines. For the Governor to attempt to lay partisan blame, while her party in Washington has delayed and obstructed more than 290 bills in the Senate is unfortunate. Critical legislation on jobs, financial reform, and help for seniors and veterans is being blocked by unprecedented Republican filibusters," said Rep. John Larson. "I urge the Governor to call on members of her own party to end their political games. And I further call on her to work to ensure that state agencies maximize their efforts to secure the federal funding our delegation has worked so hard to make available to help Connecticut citizens."

"Next week, we have to focus on breaking the partisan impasse in the Senate and making sure Connecticut starts submitting complete and sufficient applications for stimulus funds," said Rep. Chris Murphy.

"Senator Bunning's outrageous behavior is a new low for the filibuster-mania of Senate Republicans that is blocking consideration of important bills on issues like higher education assistance and job creation, which passed the House with bipartisan support," said Rep. Joe Courtney. "I hope Governor Rell will use her influence in the Republican party to stop this unprecedented abuse of Senate rules."

"This is exactly what's wrong with Washington. As thousands of families and businesses struggle to get by, one senator is holding hostage assistance to keep food on people's tables and families out of shelters," said Himes. "No one would question emergency assistance in response to a hurricane or flood. As we continue to take additional steps to create jobs and get America back to work, these short term extensions are critical in the face of our economic recovery. The Senate must take action."

Last night the House passed an emergency 30-day extension with critical benefits for families in the Connecticut and across the nation. This extension passed the House without a single Republican opposing it. However the Senate has yet to pass their version of the extension. Those benefits included in the extension, set to expire THIS WEEKEND, include:

* Unemployment benefits;
* Help with health insurance for the unemployed (COBRA);
* Surface transportation programs including highway and bridge funding and other critical state transportation projects thereby putting hundreds of transportation jobs at risk;
* Satellite TV access, which puts at risk the ability of people to watch the programs of their choice;
* Delay in the cut to Medicare physician payments, thereby putting seniors access to doctors at risk;
* Flood insurance; and
* Small business loan guarantees.
At this point, the timeline for full restoration of these benefits is unclear. Himes will continue to push his colleagues in the Senate to take this emergency extension up as soon as possible so that families have peace of mind at an already troubling time.

Currently, the House has passed 290 pieces of legislation on which the Senate has yet to act.


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