Senate OKs extension

Published 5:29 am Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Staff Writer

Cadiz, Ky., resident Tammy Mitchell called the Washington Daily News on Tuesday to ask a pressing question: Had the U.S. Senate voted to extend unemployment benefits for millions of Americans?
The answer was, “Yes,” the Senate had voted for the extension, by a 60-40 vote, ending a Republican filibuster that stalled the effort. The bill appeared headed for final passage Tuesday.
The vote paved the way for returning jobless benefits to 2.5 million Americans whose benefits had expired, The Associated Press reported.
Mitchell, who had been reading about the vote online, hoped the Senate’s action would help her and her husband, an out-of-work welder who lost his job about a year and a half ago when the plant he was working at shut down.
Her husband is ill and has filed for disability, but the couple is running out of money to pay bills, she said.
“We have just bought a house and everything,” Mitchell said. “Yes, I do think it will help, and I think it will help a lot of people.”
It was unclear whether the Senate’s move would have an impact on Mitchell and her husband, who decided to call their local employment office for more information.
But the wife has hopes.
“I do think that would help everybody, not only just us,” she said of the legislation.
According to a news release from the office of U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan, D-N.C., the Senate-passed bill extends unemployment benefits through Nov. 30.
“Without action by Congress, another 4,000 North Carolinians would lose their benefits by the end of the month,” Hagan’s office reported.
“This bill will help the North Carolina families who are struggling to make ends meet in this tough economy,” Hagan was quoted as saying in the release. “The legislation provides a crucial lifeline to more than 10,000 North Carolinians who have lost their benefits, giving them a way to provide for their families while they look for work. I will continue working in the Senate to create a better climate for North Carolina businesses to add jobs in every region of the state.”
Stan Deatherage, a conservative Republican Beaufort County commissioner, had mixed feelings about the vote.
“On one hand, while I sympathize with those who are out of work and have received unemployment benefits for up to 99 weeks, I feel that the federal government cannot continue to pay these benefits until they find offsetting costs that are easily apparent in the ongoing budgetary debacle,” Deatherage said.
Deatherage said he didn’t think the vote would impact the upcoming congressional elections.
“Also, studies show that people who have been receiving benefits generally have an easier time finding work once those benefits either run out or are about to run out,” Deatherage said. “Maybe it’s human nature.”
He added his chief concerns centered on the federal deficit and the costs of the extension.
“It’s a double-sided sword,” Deatherage concluded. “People need money, people need to work. How they find a balance between the two is a tough question, but I definitely think something else should be cut so the American people can pay for it.”
A statement from the office of Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., wasn’t immediately available Tuesday afternoon.
Prior to the vote, Elaine Marshall, Burr’s Democratic opponent this year, had called on Burr to break the filibuster by becoming the 60th senator willing to vote for the extension.
Marshall, North Carolina’s secretary of state, gathered with unemployed workers outside of Burr’s Winston-Salem office to make that call, reads a news release from the Marshall campaign.
The Daily News asked Sam Swartz, Marshall’s spokesman, how the candidate would respond to arguments that the extension vote would increase the deficit.
“She knows that the deficit is a serious, long-term problem that we have to deal with, but we can’t deal with it by breaking the backs of the unemployed,” Swartz responded.