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Camp Floor Statement: H.R. 4851, Continuing Extension Act of 2010, As Amended

April 15, 2010

Madam Speaker, I rise in support of this bill, despite its obvious shortcomings, and yield myself such time as I may consume.

On March 17th, the House approved the prior version of this bill, which would have extended Federal unemployment, COBRA and related benefits, plus the Medicare “doc fix,” through the month of April. 

Everyone in this town knew those benefits and programs were poised to expire at the end of March without an agreement to do that.  But with Senate Democrats’ continued refusal to pay for a one month extension and House Democrats’ refusal to pay for even a one week extension, hundreds of thousands have missed an unemployment benefit payment, among other painful effects. 

Now that the Senate has finally acted, we are considering a bill to extend these programs, yet again.  Only this time, the extension is not just for one month, but two.  Predictably, this will add twice as much to the already massive deficit – $18 billion instead of $9 billion. 

Unfortunately, efforts in the Senate to add offsets, so that these important provisions do not add to the deficit, were defeated.  And, disappointingly, as it has continued to do in recent months, the House is debating this bill today under procedures which do not even allow us to offer a paid-for alternative.

In the past, I have consistently voted for bills extending unemployment benefits. I will reluctantly vote for this bill today, because voting yes is the only way to continue these important benefits for laid off workers in my state, where the unemployment rate is a staggering 14 percent.  Simply put, we should not punish those workers for the failure of the Congress to find a way to pay for the extension of these benefits.  Similarly, we shouldn’t punish seniors – who risk losing access to doctors — if we don’t reverse the 21% cut in the physician fee schedule that took effect at the start of this month. We all knew this cut was coming, yet for the second time in as many months, the Democrats’ failure to act allowed this cut to go into place. 

But everyone should know this bill is far removed from what we really should be doing.  What we should really be doing is paying for the new spending we approving, instead of simply adding it onto our already overcharged national credit card.

In the longer run, we all know that unemployed workers and their families need something more than another round of extended unemployment benefits.  Most of all they need jobs.  And jobs are something this Congress has been totally incapable of producing. 

A little over a year ago, Democrats promised their trillion-dollar stimulus plan would create 3.7 million jobs.  Yet that bill was followed by 3 million more job losses.  Unemployment rose to 10 percent instead of the 8 percent peak the other side promised.  And now 16 million Americans are unemployed, with millions out of work for over a year, both all-time records.  They deserve our help, but they also deserve a job and a country not sinking ever deeper into debt. 

Madam Speaker, the American people are generous.  And they know that these continued unemployment benefits – especially in areas of the country where jobs are scarce – are important.  But they also deserve a Congress that acts responsibly.

It is too late to add offsets to this bill, and I am not prepared to vote against it for that shortcoming, since it would further hurt many who are most in need of our help.  But the next time we deal with this issue, Members need to have a real choice when it comes to helping workers without hurting future taxpayers by simply driving up the debt by tens of billions of dollars.   

I reserve the balance of my time.