January 09, 2014

Portman Urges Vote on His Amendment to Pay For Unemployment Insurance Extension

Amendment Contains Proposal from President?s Own Budget

Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-Ohio) spoke on the Senate floor urging the Senate to consider his amendment that would help pay for a three month extension of Unemployment Insurance.

Portman’s amendment includes a proposal taken from the President’s own budget and would prevent duplicative spending by ending the ability for people to receive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) while also receiving Unemployment Insurance (UI) or Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA).  By eliminating this double-dipping between disability benefits and unemployment or trade adjustment benefits, Portman’s amendment will ensure that SSDI funds are going to those who truly need them and will save $5.4 billion that can help pay for a three month extension of UI benefits.

Earlier this week, Portman supported the motion to proceed with the debate over how to address UI with the hope that during the debate the Senate would agree to pay for the extension and work to improve the UI program so it works better to connect those unemployed with available jobs. 

Excerpts of Portman’s remarks are below and the video can be found here.

“…the Majority Leader decided to, what we call around here, fill the tree, which means taking away the opportunity for amendments to be offered…I’m disappointed in that because I think we were very close to reaching an agreement which would have enabled us to move forward with allowing Senators on both sides of the aisle to offer some of their ideas on the Unemployment Insurance extension.  Recall, this is an important debate we’re having for the American people.”

“On this side of the aisle, there were a few of us who crossed over, in fact, to vote with the entire Democrat majority to say let’s have that debate.  We thought we were doing so in good faith that there would actually be a debate on two issues, really. One is whether it should be paid for or not, and how it should be paid for…Second was how we should reform the Unemployment Insurance program and in fact do other pro-growth policies that actually get at the underlying problem which is a record level, a record number of Americans who are long-term unemployed. Clearly what we’re doing isn’t working, and we believe this is an opportunity for us to help improve the program to actually address the real problem.  The President of the United States wants to do that. He called me on Monday and told me that he hoped we would be able to address this issue by voting for the motion to proceed to begin this debate so that over the next few months while we had a short-term extension of this program there could be even more detailed discussions about how to improve the legislation and how to add other elements to it. Specifically, on how to give people who are long-term unemployed the skills they need to access the jobs that are available. Unfortunately we are not going to have that opportunity now.”

“We were not part of the discussion as to the pay-for that the Majority Leader has just put forward.  I appreciate his good faith in wanting to include one of the proposals that I had in my amendment…I will say that the offset that he has put in I have just learned about because I didn’t have the opportunity to see it until now. There is an important difference between what was just offered in the new Democrat proposal and what is in my proposal. My proposal…has been previously proposed in the House.  It says that if you get Unemployment Insurance, or if you get Trade Adjustment Assistance, then you also do not receive Social Security Disability Insurance in that same month.  Why? Because these programs are mutually exclusive…this is why the same general program is laid out in the President’s budget and in fact is something the Administration supports, and others.  The proposal the Democrats have included says that if you receive Unemployment Insurance in the month you receive Social Security [Disability Insurance], then your SSDI is reduced by the amount of unemployment insurance received.  Why does that matter? It’s not the same thing. It matters because the proposal that the Majority Leader has proposed saves a lot less money.”

“My hope is that we can come up with a solution here. I do think it’s going to require us providing some opportunity for other people to be engaged, and specifically, for those of us who want to get to a solution, which is a lot of people on this side of the aisle and that side of the aisle, both sides of the aisle, let’s sit down and talk. We’re adults. We have been elected by millions of people to represent them, and it’s our responsibility and indeed our commitment to them that we would sit down across the aisle and work these things out.”

“And I do believe that we have the opportunity, if we were to back up, to actually solve this problem. Meaning to provide what the President says he wants, which is a three month extension of long term unemployment, so that we can sit down, roll up our sleeves, as Republicans and Democrats, and come up with a better way to address what is a crisis in this country, which is more people, long-term unemployed than ever in the history of our country. Those people are hurting, and clearly the current system isn’t working. So just to extend it is not the answer. The answer is for Washington to do its job, and that is to reform these programs so they work for the people we represent.”

“[My proposal] is in the President’s budget so if it’s such a terrible proposal, I’m surprised the President would have proposed it…I think if you were to call on the Office of Management and Budget or the Treasury Department, they would tell you that they stand by these proposals.”

“I hope we can work something out here. I think there is an opportunity for us to do so. But I don’t think we can do it unless there is a little give and take and some discussion at least, which we have not been able to have yet.”