Senator Tom Harkin, a Democrat, is railing against Republicans for blocking a vote on legislation that would extend government benefits to the long-term unemployed.
“Where, I ask, is the moral outrage at policies that are going to allow million-dollar bonuses to the Wall Street money manipulators and then give them a tax break so they don’t have to pay their fair share of taxes, but then deny unemployment benefits to two million out-of-work Americans?” Harkin said today during a news conference in Washington, D.C. “Where is the sense of moral outrage?”
Congress is deadlocked on the issue, with Democrats pushing a plan to spend $56 billion over the next year on benefits to the long-term unemployed for up to 99 weeks. Republicans say there should be cuts in other areas of the federal government to off-set that cost. All 42 Senate Republicans — including Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa — have vowed to block votes on nearly all legislation pending in the senate until there’s an agreement to extend all the Bush-era tax cuts.
“Have the Republican leadership in the congress lost all sense of justice? Have they lost all sense of fairness?” Harkin asked, and some in the group around Harkin responded, “Yes” and one man yelled: “They never had it.”
Harkin continued: “Has the Republican leadership lost all sense of what’s right and wrong?”
Harkin accuses Republicans of using “archaic” Senate procedures to “strangle” unemployment benefits, as 40 senators can use the Senate’s filibuster rule to block the attempts of the other 60 to have a vote.
“I’m not here to be coy,” Harkin said at today’s news conference. “I’m here to put the finger of responsibility and blame where it belongs — on the Republican leadership in the United States Senate.”
Governor Chet Culver issued a written statement this afternoon criticizing Republicans in the Senate. Culver said letting unemployment benefits expire hurts the economy at a critical point in the recovery, as those who’re out of a job use the benefits to “buy the basics as they look for work.”