Thomas Roberts   |  January 07, 2014

Senate votes to extend unemployment benefits

By a vote of 60 to 37, the Senate voted toextend expired aid to millions of unemployed Americans. Democratic Sen. Chris Coons weighs in.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> weather delay procedural vote to extend unemployment aid, one of the factors leaving more than 1 million americans out in the cold. moments ago the upper chamber voted. senate democrats need five republicans to come onboard. right now the votes are being counted. we're told by casey hunt of nbc news that four republicans are onboard, new hampshire senator kelly ayotte, lisa murkowski of alaska and susan cohen of maine. that's a positive sign. moments ago, senators reid, a cosponsor of today's bill and senator schumer made their case.

>> we extended these benefits unpaid for 89-8. and yet now we have to pay for these benefits. well, what we've done, senator heller and i, listen, we need to help these people now.

>> what i'd say to my colleagues is, if you believe in unemployment benefits and extending them, pass them clean and simple. don't play games. get it done.

>> president obama , who spent yesterday reaching out to republicans on the phone, will speak from the white house . we're expecting him at approximately 11:40 a.m . eastern time to talk about what democrats have called an unprecedented loss of a lifeline for millions of americans . a reminder of what's at stake, aid to about 1.3 million americans . their three-month extension expired on december the 28th. the bill would have added $6.5 billion to the national deficit. how to offset that cost is what lawmakers are fired up about up and down party lines .

>> you don't cut medical research or meals on wheels or some kind of social security cuts in order to pay for it. you don't sort of rob peter to pay paul .

>> don't get me wrong, i think this thing ought to be paid for, but i'm going to support this legislation anyway, because truly i think it's the right thing to do.

>> i am against extending the unemployment benefits . any time the federal government is sending funds out, it means they are taking more out of hard working americans ' pockets in order to pay for this.

>> nbc news senior political editor mark murray joins me now from washington. okay, so senator coates was a piece of news for us, so that would make five. the assumption is this bill is going to move forward?

>> right, the vote isn't over yet, but seems you have the 60 votes to clear this procedural hurdle, which is a surprise. and the big surprise, as you mention, coming from senator dan coates of indiana. i don't think a lot of people saw that coming. as casey hunt had outline, we knew there were four republicans backed it, getting the fifth was problematic, but now seems they have it. brian , this was the easy part, and going through the democratic controlled senate , is much easier than getting the house of representatives to act on this, and that's where the battleground would go after this, particularly if this does go on to pass in the united states senate , and as we've seen, there's often been this big dynamic where you end up having the senate doing one thing and the house of representatives doing the other.

>> i want to repeat for people just joining us, according to nbc news reporting there are five republican senators that have voted for it, dean heller , lisa murkowski , susan collins , kelly ayotte , and dan coates from indiana. according to that, the assumption is if the procedural vote does pass, mark, it will get through the senate , correct?

>> correct, yes. of course, the final vote is a simple majority . democrats certainly have that. it's these procedural votes getting to 60 that's been the problematic thing for democrats in the senate .

>> do we assume the president when he speaks in about a half hour will make that push towards the house and house republicans to have them get this done?

>> absolutely, and even if republicans had successfully filibustered this particular measure, you would have seen the president comment on that, but yes, he'll cast his eye to house republicans and say it's time, even for just three months, to help out people who need unemployment benefits , who need jobless benefits. and democrats want to talk about this, brian . this is what they've been saying, they want to make 2014 , at least the early part of this year, about income inequality, trying to help out people who need a leg up. republicans want to focus all of their fire on the president's health care law and that's been the dynamic play, dynamic of play last year and so far into 2014 , that's the dynamic.

>> all right, mark, we appreciate it. nbc 's mark murray , thank you very much.

>>> joining me now, delaware democratic senator chris kunz, a cosponsor of today's bill, thank you for being on the program.

>> thank you, brian .

>> we know the toll on individuals, $300 a week, that's a pretty big deal . the dollars are also piling up, $400 million of last week, $800,000 has not been injected in your state of delaware . when it comes to this debate, is this about paying for an extension or are the republicans trying to yet again send a message to the president?

>> well, brian , i think what this is about is americans who are continuing to look for work. we've still got three times as many job seekers as jobs available. there's about 11 million unemployed americans and 1.3 million americans and that translates to several thousand in my home state of delaware lost their unemployment benefits last week and another 1.9 million will lose them in the months ahead as they time out of their state-provided unemployment insurance benefits. and let's remember who these folks are, they are job seekers, people who lost their jobs through no fault of their own and who have paid into unemployment insurance . america is a country that's supposed to be about looking out for each other, looking out for our neighbors and not allowing them to slip into poverty, lose homes, go on to food stamps just because they lost their job through no fault of their own, so it's my hope, brian , that having just cleared this hurdle, my sense is the final vote count was 60-37, so i'm grateful that a handful of republicans joined the democrats in allowing us to go to the bill. we're still going to have to debate and pass the bill here in the senate , but the focus now turns to the house and whether or not the house is willing to step up to the plate and continue to provide support for american job seekers.

>> it's a pretty consistent theme in terms of when one chamber tries to pass something, seems the other tries to block it. i want you to listen to something marsha blackburn said. she spoke to my colleague chris jansing a few minutes ago. here's what she had to say.

>> i want to solve this problem. it is just untenable that so many people have been unemployed for this amount of time, because this economy has created an environment where employers cannot create jobs. the uncertainty, the overregulation, the overtaxation, the way washington picks winners and losers.

>> your thoughts on what she had to say?

>> well, what i think we ought to be focusing on is a pro growth economy where we continue the strength of our recovery through investing. investing in education, in skills training, in infrastructure. there have been a number of bipartisan bills introduced and discussed and debated here in the senate . just earlier today, i met with a bipartisan group of senators committ committed to moving legislation on manufacturing. infrastructure, education, research and development , where we can and should be investing to grow our economy. the congresswoman points solely to uncertainty and regulatory nty in the marketplace, certainly is a drag on our recovery. there is a role for the federal government , and we need to get past our narrow partisan ideology here that divides the house and senate . we need to get past those who refuse to step up to the plate and to rejoin the long held, broad commitment in this country to supporting job seekers, supporting those who need temporary assistance to get back on their feet and work together to strengthen their economy.

>> education, to be quite honest, probably needs to be more of a focus. i did a lot of this work at cnbc and many of these people need a whole new skill set to be able to find work, and if they don't, there's a chance they are going to stay unemployed for a lot longer. senator, we unfortunately have to leave it there. congratulations on your vote. he's a fellow amherst college graduate.

>> '85.

>> senator coons, we appreciate you being on msnbc.