Unemployment Benefits Drying Up

Republican filibuster prevents passage of extention of benefits

By Lauren Jiggetts and BJ Lutz
|  Monday, Mar 1, 2010  |  Updated 9:15 PM CDT
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Unemployment benefits for nearly 15,000 Illinoisans dried up at the stroke of midnight Monday, and more residents are set to lose them each week unless Congress passes an emergency spending bill.

The House passed a bill Thursday extending the programs for one month while lawmakers consider how to address the issues long-term. Senate Democrats repeatedly tried to follow suit Thursday night and Friday morning, but they couldn't overcome the objections of a single lawmaker, Republican Sen. Jim Bunning of Kentucky, who argued that the $10 billion bill would add to the budget deficit.

"When 100 senators are for a bill and we can't find $10 billion to pay for it, there's something the matter, seriously the matter, with this body," he said.

But Sen. Dick Durbin, along with other Democrats and some Republicans, have called on Bunning to drop the filibuster, arguing that economic conditions justify borrowing to pay for the program.

"These are people who are genuinely trying, every single day, to find a job.  Some of them have been out of work over a year.  Some over two years.  And they're trying to keep it together," said Durbin.

About 550,000 people around the state receive unemployment benefits, including Tina Cicerchia of Carol Stream.  She was laid off from her job as a customer care specialist at a moving company in January of 2009 and has filed over 300 applications since then but is still without work.

She said she depends on the roughly $1,200 in benefits to get by.

"We're not living high and mighty.  We're, you know, we're being able to at least hopefully pay our bills and what-not, and that's still stimulating the economy," said Cicerchia.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is expected to get around Bunning's objection by moving to a $100 billion permanent version of this bill this week that Bunning wouldn't be able to block.  Republicans said they'd support it if it's paid for with leftover Stimulus money, but Reid is expected to reject that stipulation.

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