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Emergency Extended Unemployment Compesnation Act of 2008

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Ms. PELOSI. I thank the gentleman for yielding and for his outstanding leadership on this issue. He has been a relentless and persistent advocate for America's working families, for hard workers in our country who, through no fault of their own, and in large measure because of the poor economic policies of the Bush administration, have lost their job.

Mr. Speaker, it is said, and it's been said directly by George Bernard Shaw, that it is the mark of a truly intelligent person to be moved by statistics. My colleagues have made the case for why we need this unemployment insurance, and I want to address once again, as they have, some of the statistics and see if it is the mark of truly intelligent people to respond to that.

Today we have the opportunity to help 3.8 million Americans who are out of work and their families in large part because of the disastrous economic policies of the White House and the Republicans in Congress.

There are 3.8 million Americans for whom 13 weeks of the unemployment insurance system, a system, as the gentleman indicated, that they have paid for, could mean not losing a home or a job or skipping meals or needed health care. Today we have that opportunity to provide that help.

More statistics.

In the Bush economy, gas prices have skyrocketed to $4 a gallon. One in ten Americans are at risk of losing their homes, and even more families are seeing the value of their greatest financial assets, their homes, plummet.

More statistics.

On Friday, we received the alarming news that since the beginning of the year, our Nation has lost more than 325,000 jobs, including 49,000 in the month of May alone.

The Nation's unemployment rate has risen to 5.5 percent, the biggest monthly increase since 1986. In two decades, last Friday on that day, it jumped 0.5 percent to 5 1/2 percent.

On that same day, by the way, my colleagues, the price per barrel of oil increased by over $11 in that 1 day. In the 1990s, in 1998, the price per barrel was that exact same figure, just over $11. 1998, price per barrel of oil, $11-plus. Last Friday, price per barrel jumped, increased over $11 to over $130 per barrel.

So this is the economic situation in which these families find themselves. They have been hardworking, played by the rules, paid into the system, paid into the system for occasions like this where there's a downturn in the economy, and they lose their jobs through no fault of their own. And the Republicans want to make them look like charity cases.

These are strong people. They are the backbone of America. We have a responsibility to them. And if they are not moved by statistics, as George Bernard Shaw says any intelligent person should be, perhaps you would be moved by their personal stories.

This extension of unemployment benefits will help people like Kathy Henry. She was laid off her job at an advertising company last August. In February, her unemployment benefits ran out. As she says, ``I must have had 100 interviews, and no one wants to hire me.'' Many times people think the people that are being interviewed for these jobs are overqualified. ``An extension of unemployment benefits would give me more time to look for a job,'' Kathy says.

And Liz Waller of Missouri, she just has 3 weeks of unemployment benefits left. She said, ``Absolutely, an extension would make a big difference for me. I'm dying to get back to work.'' I'm dying to get back to work, ``but I've done interview after interview and there are just way too many job candidates out there. I just keep getting told I'm overqualified.''

There is a concern on the part of some employers that as people continue to look for work and look for jobs at lower pay, that if they hire them, then they will leave when they can find a job at higher pay with an upturn in the economy.

This isn't about people sitting on their butts back home saying, goody, I'm getting an unemployment check; now I can really look my family in the eye and say I'm providing. These people want to provide for their families. To imply anything else is an insult to these millions of people who have lost their jobs through no fault of their own and, in large measure, because of the Bush administration's failed economic policies.

Let's think about our veterans. This legislation is especially important to our returning military veterans. A recent government report prepared for the Veterans Affairs Department found that young veterans earn less and have a harder time finding work than do civilians in the same age group. The percentage of veterans not in the labor force--because they couldn't find jobs, stopped looking for work because they couldn't find jobs, or went back to school--jumped to 23 percent in 2005 from 10 percent in the year 2000.

Our veterans come home; they can't find work. Some of them need this unemployment insurance, and the Republicans are saying, ``Just say no.''

Extending unemployment benefits not only helps those who are looking for work, it stimulates the economy. According to the Congressional Budget Office, it is one of the most cost-effective and fast-acting ways to stimulate the economy because the money is spent quickly. For every $1 spent on unemployment benefits, $1 spent generates $1.64 in new economic demand. Stimulates the economy.

All Americans who work pay unemployment insurance, pay into a trust fund for a rainy day. The rainy day is here. Today, across the country and for millions of Americans, that rainy day is here. Congress should ensure that those who paid into the system for the benefits now can receive them, and we can do this by passing this legislation today.

Mr. Speaker, the issue and the debate is not a partisan one. All Americans are feeling serious and deep economic pain. The people who will benefit from this are Democrats, Republicans, nonpartisans, Independents, people who aren't even interested in the political system. Yet, President Bush has issued a veto threat against this legislation, despite the fact that it will help--let's get back to our statistics--3.8 million Americans and, in fact, the entire economy.

And so I get back to our friend George Bernard Shaw. ``It is the mark of a truly intelligent person to be moved by statistics.''

I thank Chairman McDermott for your important work on this subcommittee, on this legislation. I also want to commend the chairman of the full committee for being a truly intelligent man, moved by statistics, Chairman Rangel for his relentless work on this important legislation. To Mr. Levin as well and to all of the members of the committee, thank you for bringing this important legislation to the floor.

The American people are waiting to see if Congress will act to help them on a matter that is relevant to their economic survival at a difficult time in their lives for money that they paid into the system. I urge my colleagues to vote ``aye.''


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