3/29/2010 — 

Mr. REED. Mr. President, I thank Senator Stabenow.

We are here to attempt to extend unemployment benefits for a brief period of time so Americans do not get caught up in the expiration of these benefits on April 5. This has been a repeated struggle. We have had many incidents over the last several months where we have had to come down here and, at the last moment, attempt to project these benefits further. I hope we do not fail again today.

In 2009, when President Obama walked into office, we were losing 700,000 jobs per month. This is a crisis of epic proportions, rivaling, in some respect, in some regions of the country, the Great Depression. In my home State of Rhode Island, we have a 12.7-percent unemployment rate, and it has been persistent now for almost 2 years. We are seeing an unfortunate record of long-term unemployment. We have to help our colleagues, our neighbors, our friends, and we have to do it in a way that does not deny them the basic necessities to hang on in a difficult economy.

But this situation is not just as a result of the last several months or the last several years. If you look back across the past decade--from 2000 to 2010--it has been an extraordinarily unproductive one for working Americans. There has been zero net job creation since December 1999. We have had no decade since the 1940s where job growth was less than 20 percent. This is the culmination of a decade in which people could not find the kind of work they typically found in America. We saw middle-income households' earning power decline. They were making less in 2008 than they were in 1999. Two-thirds of the Nation's total income from 2002 to 2007 flowed to the top 1 percent.

So middle-income families have been losing out persistently, and now they have hit the skids because so many of them now are seeing their jobs go, seeing their house threatened with foreclosure, seeing the dream of sending their children to college evaporate. At least the minimum we can do is provide the kind of assistance they need.

We routinely, when there is a natural disaster, provide assistance. In the last 20 years, an estimated $336 billion in disaster assistance and $61.8 billion in agricultural assistance has flowed to the States. This is a disaster in the same respect. It is a disaster to individual families who have lost their employment.

The irony here is, if a flood had washed through a State in the Union and destroyed the work of 12 percent of the population, we would be here with disaster relief to get the funds to give loans, to give support, et cetera. Well, this is a disaster. We must move.

In that respect, seeing my time is coming to a close, the time I have----

Mr. COBURN. Mr. President, I would be happy to give the Senator some additional time, and we will roll the time off of your later time, if you would like time now, I say to the Senator.

Mr. REED. Mr. President, I thank the Senator from Oklahoma. Let me take 1 or 2 more minutes. That is extremely thoughtful. I thank the Senator.

We have an opportunity to act today, and we should. The proposal is to go ahead and to extend through the next several days the existing benefits so we have time to come back. We have already sent to the House an extension of unemployment benefits that will carry through to the end of this calendar year. It also includes FMAP provisions, which are extremely important to States.

I think in the spirit of letting us continue to support these Americans while we debate and finally conclude, I hope successfully, a longer term solution is the best thing to do.

UNANIMOUS CONSENT REQUEST--H.R. 4501

My colleague Senator Stabenow an hour ago propounded a unanimous consent request, only to receive an objection. I will once again ask unanimous consent that the Senate proceed to the immediate consideration of Calendar 323, H.R. 4501, to provide a temporary extension of certain programs, that the bill be read three times, passed, and the motion to reconsider be laid upon the table.

The ACTING PRESIDENT pro tempore. Is there objection?

Mr. COBURN. Mr. President, reserving the right to object, again, I would note this is the fourth time I have done this and, regrettably, because we had an agreement yesterday that the House would not go along with, I have to object because we will be adding to the debt.

The ACTING PRESIDENT pro tempore. Objection is heard.

Mr. REED. Mr. President, I appreciate the Senator's objection. Additionally, I appreciate his consideration in allowing me to speak.

Let me conclude. We have a huge debt at the moment. I think if you look at the major contributing factors of that debt, they would include tax cuts that were unpaid for, supported strongly by the Republicans, which went dramatically to the richest Americans, and two wars that have been unpaid for. In fact, I think in a few weeks we are going to have to consider another supplemental Defense budget which at this point I do not believe is paid for and which I do not feel will engender any objection by the Republican side. It will include, given the nature of counterinsurgency operations, monies that will be used, ironically, to help develop productive jobs and build clinics and do things our soldiers must do to secure the peace in Afghanistan and Iraq. Yet at the same time we can't find that kind of money here without an offset to help Americans.

So there is a question of priorities. There is a question of the deficit. Again, repeating something my colleague said, I too recall when we had a surplus. That was under the leadership of President Clinton. There were tough votes by my colleagues and myself. That surplus has dissipated. We are now in a severe situation with the deficit. The compelling priorities of Americans who need to work and can't find it yet are extremely persuasive and should be responded to by the success of the bill.

I again thank the Senator from Oklahoma. He is extraordinarily kind.