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Public Statements

Extending Unemployment Insurance

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. DAVIS of Illinois. Let me thank the gentleman from Michigan for yielding, but I also want to commend him for his many years of excellent service to this body that we know as the United States House of Representatives. And I want to commend him for the tremendous leadership that he provides as the ranking member of the Ways and Means Committee.

Mr. Speaker, it is December 7, and Republicans still have not enacted legislation to protect the millions of Americans hardest hit by one of the worst economic crises in our Nation's history. The well-being of 6 million Americans, including 100,000 from my home State of Illinois, hangs in the balance. Our Nation is in an unemployment crisis, and we must act now to help our citizens.

At this time last year, Republicans emphasized that the economy was so horrible that the wealthiest Americans needed 2 years of tax cuts, yet they only saw the need to help the unemployed for 1 year of emergency assistance. Now, 1 year later, as the emergency assistance runs out, Republicans remain comfortable with the $180 billion in tax breaks for the wealthiest 3 percent of Americans, but they cannot support $50 billion in 2012 to help millions of the neediest Americans--and never mind any consideration of helping the millions of Americans who have exhausted their Federal benefits and still can't find a job.

Our Nation, yes, is indeed in an unemployment crisis. Over 45 percent of all unemployed workers--more than 6 million people--have been out of work for more than 6 months. There are approximately 6.4 million fewer jobs now than at the beginning of the Great Depression. The Department of Labor data showed that there are over 4.2 unemployed Americans for every one job. Even if every job were filled, 8.9 million citizens would remain unemployed.

During this protracted storm of economic hardship, unemployment benefits are a critical lifeline for our citizens and for our economy. Unemployment benefits have kept 3.2 million Americans--including nearly 1 million children--from falling into poverty in 2010 alone. New research shows that the current Federal unemployment programs provide $2 in economic stimulus for every $1 in unemployment benefits circulating in the economy. The Federal unemployment programs saved or created 1.1 million jobs as of the fourth quarter of 2009 alone. And the Economic Policy Institute estimates that preventing unemployment benefits from expiring could prevent the loss of over 500,000 jobs.

Our Nation is indeed in an unemployment crisis, and we must act now to help our citizens. We cannot protect the wealthy while ignoring the millions of Americans hardest hit by one of the worst economic crises in our Nation's history. We cannot deliver a windfall to the privileged and deny the poor. Such a position is not responsible leadership, and such a position is not consistent with American values.

So I join with my colleagues in urging the Republican leadership to protect vulnerable Americans by extending the unemployment benefits.

I want to thank you, Mr. Levin, again for the opportunity to participate.


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