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Mr. BAUCUS. Madam President, last week I had the opportunity to see Charles Dickens' classic ``A Christmas Carol.'' As my colleagues know, this is a morality tale that highlights the plight of the poor, the less fortunate, and the unemployed. In fact, when Charles Dickens began to work on ``A Christmas Carol,'' he was so upset with the plight of youth and children working in the mines in England, he started out to write about that in a novel that evolved into a tale about Christmas, ``A Christmas Carol.''
As I watched ``A Christmas Carol'' with my wife in Ford's Theater about a week ago, I was struck by the following line from the spirit of Jacob Marley. Here is what he said:
Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, benevolence, was all my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business.
With that line, Dickens was advocating for those less fortunate and voicing his support for economic equality. Those words are most appropriate today at this time of year.
I come to the floor today with my friend, the Senator from Rhode Island Jack Reed to share our concerns about the weak labor market, those who have been unemployed for so long, and its impact on the Nation's 11 million unemployed. Senator Reed and I are especially concerned about those who have been without work for an extended period of time.
It has been 4 years since the end of the great recession, and while the Nation's economy has been slow to recover, steadily adding jobs, a large section of society is still out of work. Of the Nation's 11 million unemployed, a little over 4 million of our friends and neighbors are considered long-term unemployed. That means they have been without work for 6 months or more.
Most people who find themselves out of work are eligible to receive assistance from their State for 26 weeks, as they look for a new job. But, for far too many, finding a new job in a sluggish economy has been extremely difficult. When State aid is exhausted, Federal emergency unemployment insurance kicks in and helps families to help make ends meet. However, that safety net is now about to expire. It is about to expire in just a couple of weeks.
In fact, in less than 2 weeks, Federal emergency unemployment insurance will run out. On December 28, 1.3 million people will lose their unemployment benefits. These are people who are obviously hurting. If they don't have a job, they would love to find a job, and if they have a job, they are trying to make ends meet. They are understandably discouraged, unsuccessful at finding work.
We cannot cast them aside. We need to provide out-of-work Americans the security they need while they continue to look for jobs. We need to help them look for work--clearly--and put food on the table for their families.
Extending the jobless aid to the long-time out-of-work must be a priority for this Congress. With the House already in recess, we will not be able to extend emergency unemployment benefits before the end of the year. But it is my hope that when Congress returns, we can retroactively extend benefits.
At the same time, when we return next month, we need to explore long-term unemployment solutions. We need to jump-start policies that will grow our economy more rapidly and create new jobs. It has to be a dual track: Benefits for those unemployed but also assistance to find ways for more people to get jobs.
We all care deeply about this. I know no one who cares more deeply than my good friend from Rhode Island Jack Reed. He has been working diligently, looking at every possible solution to try to find a way to make sure unemployment benefits are extended.
That is why we are working together. This issue is under the jurisdiction of the Finance Committee, but Jack has worked very hard to ensure these Americans are not cast aside. Senator Reed and I will do all we can to try to find a solution.
I tip my hat especially to the Senator from Rhode Island for all he has done. He is a tireless advocate for a solution for those unemployed. Together, we will try, as Dickens said, to make the common welfare our business.
Thank you, Madam President.
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