Washington, D.C. – Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva, co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, today called Sen. Jim Bunning’s obstruction of a crucial unemployment benefits bill “an insult to the notion of public service,” especially because Bunning’s move to kill the bill was opposed even by his Republican colleagues.
“Hard-working Americans facing a tough economy don’t deserve this,” Grijalva said of Bunning’s decision. “Putting benefits in jeopardy for hundreds of thousands, and potentially millions, of unemployed workers for the sake of a partisan political argument is an abuse of power, and should be treated as one.”
Because Bunning objected to the proposal, which Senate Democrats were requesting be passed by unanimous consent, unemployment insurance ran out for several hundred thousand people last Saturday. If Congress doesn’t act, the number will grow to 400,000 during the first two weeks of March and nearly 3 million by May, according to the Department of Labor (DOL).
“When it’s this easy for one person to make a bad situation worse, voters are right to be angry,” Grijalva said. “Playing politics with peoples’ economic security, their homes, their children’s welfare and their livelihoods isn’t leadership and shouldn’t be tolerated by any party that claims to represent the American people.”
According to DOL statistics, Bunning’s maneuver means 4,300 unemployed Kentuckians became ineligible for benefits over the weekend. Other hard-hit states include New York (54,300), Florida (49,600), Georgia (41,000) and Illinois (28,200). In Grijalva’s state of Arizona, the figure is 8,300.
“This is not an abstract debate about principle or philosophy,” Grijalva said. “These are real people who are trying hard to find work and get back on their feet. Cutting off badly needed assistance at a time like this will only spread insecurity and greater hardship. Sen. Bunning did himself, his state and his country a great disservice and his colleagues should prevail upon him until he relents.”