WASHINGTON – For the third time in three weeks, Senator Scott Brown last night joined Republicans in blocking a vote on providing unemployment checks to millions of people across the country.
The measure failed by a single vote, with two Republicans – Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe, both of Maine – joining 57 Democrats in trying to advance a bill that would extend unemployment. Senator Ben Nelson of Nebraska was the only Democrat who voted against the bill.
With the Senate off next week for a week-long break, the issue won’t come up again until the week of July 12. It seems sure to pass at that point, once a replacement is named for Senator Robert C. Byrd, the West Virginia Democrat who died Monday.
Democrats have scaled back their plans several times in recent weeks, scrapping plans to provide states with more Medicaid funds to offset budget cut. The measure last night would have cost $34 billion, and Republicans opposed it because it would add to the federal debt since there was no funding source to pay for it.
Brown has come under increasing pressure from Massachusetts advocates, unions, and unemployed residents for continuing to block unemployment benefit extensions, even as he held up a financial reform overhaul because he objected in a $19 billion tax on large financial institutions. Youth advocates earlier this week protested at Brown’s office in Boston, asking the Massachusetts Republican to vote for funding for summer jobs.
"Unfortunately Senator Brown is using his clout as a key vote to deliver a $19 billion break to the financial elites on Wall Street who crumbled our economy," Robert Haynes, president of the Massachusetts AFL-CIO, said today in a statement. "Real people are suffering and every week more will suffer without his vote on an unemployment extension. Wall Street is doing fine. He's chosen to help nameless, faceless businesses who are doing fine over real working class families who are truly suffering. It's unacceptable."
Earlier yesterday, Brown introduced legislation that would have used federal stimulus funding to pay for the unemployment assistance, as well as fund summer jobs and provide additional Medicaid funding.
“No one is disputing the value of these very important programs, especially in my home State of Massachusetts, but throughout the country as well,” Brown said yesterday on the Senate floor. “But we also have to make tough choices, and we have to live within our means.”
“I have been in Washington a little over 5 months now,” Brown added. “It seems that everybody is following my voting record. It speaks for itself in that I worked to work across party lines to solve problems. But the thing that is a problem is, it needs to be a two-way street. Bipartisanship is not just from the new Senator from Massachusetts. It needs to be with the majority party looking outside the box.”
Matt Viser can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
About Political Intelligence
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 email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.