Today, the U.S. Senate threw a lifeline that 1.3 million Americans desperately need, agreeing to move forward on legislation to extend emergency unemployment benefits that had expired on Dec. 28.
Although the economy is slowly healing, too many people are still weathering a powerful, devastating storm they did nothing to create. Through no fault of their own and despite their most diligent efforts, so many workers have been unable to find jobs. Many face catastrophic situations, in danger of losing their homes and unable to support their families.
Extended unemployment benefits, even as the economy continues to rebound, is a proud bipartisan tradition. This version of the program was first passed by a Republican Congress and signed by President Bush in 2008. Failure to extend these benefits at a moment when long-term unemployment is this high would be historically unprecedented.
Today's Senate vote was the right thing to do -- an important step toward providing critical relief to families in economic distress. And it was also the smart thing to do -- because these benefits would provide an economic stimulus by putting more money in the pockets of working families.
I am grateful in particular to Sens. Reed and Heller, as well as Majority Leader Reid, for their leadership in moving this legislation. It is critical now that the Senate move quickly to final passage, with the House of Representatives following suit and getting a bill to President Obama's desk as soon as possible.