New Senator Paul G. Kirk Jr. of Massachusetts plans to join several colleagues Tuesday in pushing for passage of a bill to extend unemployment benefits.
"Unemployment insurance benefits began exhausting for jobless workers at the end of September, and nearly 2 million Americans will lose these benefits by the end of this year. Legislation to extend unemployment insurance for these workers has been held up in the Senate for nearly 2 weeks, despite repeated attempts by the Democratic leadership to pass this critical legislation," Kirk's office said.
Last month, the Massachusetts jobless rate rose to 9.3 percent, exceeding the peak during the early 1990s recession.
"In Massachusetts alone, more than 15,000 of our constituents have exhausted their UI benefits since the end of August. Another 4,000 are expected to run out of benefits before Thanksgiving, and as many as 40,000 individuals will have exhausted their benefits by the end of the year," Kirk and Senator John F. Kerry of Massachusetts wrote earlier this month to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
"Americans have already suffered severe repercussions from the current deep recession, and they deserve better than to be stranded without any assistance. It is essential that an extension be passed without delay."
Kirk will be joined by Senators Jack Reed of Rhode Island and Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, as well as Charles Schumer, Debbie Stabenow, Sherrod Brown, Bob Casey, Amy Klobuchar, and Al Franken.
But in this case, it's not Republican opposition that is gumming up the works. Instead, a bill that the House passed last month to give another 13 weeks of unemployment benefits to people from states where the jobless rate is at least 8.5 percent has bogged down because of resistance from lawmakers representing 23 states that have lower unemployment rates and would be left out.
Shaheen has been pushing for a bill that would extend unemployment benefits nationwide.
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Glen Johnson is Politics Editor at boston.com and lead blogger for "Political Intelligence." He moved to Massachusetts in the fourth grade, and has covered local, state, and national politics for over 25 years. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.