Missouri State Republicans Filibuster Jobless Benefits Extension: ‘Enough Is Enough’

Missouri State Senator Jim Lembke (R)

Republicans in the Senate have led several high-profile crusades against extending unemployment benefits, even as the effects of the Great Recession are still being felt by families across the country. Former Sen. Jim Bunning (R-KY) last year replied “tough sh*t” to Democrats trying to pass an extension, and it wasn’t until President Obama agreed to an extension of the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest two percent of Americans that the GOP finally allowed a long-term jobless benefits extension to move forward.

But it isn’t only at the federal level where Republican lawmakers are blocking unemployment benefits. In Missouri — where the unemployment rate is currently 9.5 percent — Republican state senators are filibustering legislation that needs to pass today in order to prevent unemployed workers from losing their benefits:

With the aid of several conservative freshman senators, [Senator Jim] Lembke (R) managed to successfully hold up the debate on the bill, which funds unemployment benefits for those Missourian unemployed for between 79 and 99 weeks. The extension bill has already passed through the House and is expected to easily pass the Senate when it is called up for a vote.

“Ninety-nine weeks is too much,” Lembke said. “It’s too long. Enough is enough.”

States need to affirmatively accept the final tier of extended jobless benefits from the federal government — which funds weeks 79 through 99 — by agreeing to certain guidelines regarding which workers qualify for benefits. Accepting the benefits does not cost Missouri anything, but Lembke said he is blocking them in order to send a message to Washington regarding federal spending habits. Even the Republican President Pro Tem of the state senate refused to back the filibuster, asking Lembke, “Is this the best method to get [your point] across to the federal government?”

Republican lawmakers in the Idaho state house yesterday also made an attempt to block their state from accepting the final tier of unemployment benefits, but were ultimately overruled. “It’s time to lead the horse away from the trough and make him go to work,” said Idaho state Rep. Marv Hagedorn (R), who voted against Idaho accepting the extended benefits.