This was a vote on a motion to suspend the rules and pass legislation extending unemployment compensation for laid-off workers whose benefits have expired. Motions to suspend the rules limit time allowed for debate, and prohibit members from offering amendments. A two-thirds vote is required to approve the motion and pass a bill, rather than the usual majority.
Rep. Sander Levin (D-MI) urged support for the bill: “I don't see how we can go home for Thanksgiving when, as a result of failure of benefits, hundreds of thousands of people may not have a turkey on their table because they can't afford it and the next week may not have the moneys they need to meet their daily needs. [This was one of the last votes taken in the House prior to the Thanksgiving recess.] This should be a bipartisan effort….These are people laid off, people who have been looking for work, people who cannot find work. For every job, at least five people are looking for employment for that job.”
Rep. Charles Boustany (R-LA) urged members to oppose the bill, arguing that the cost of extending unemployment insurance should be offset by cutting government spending on other programs: “The American people know it isn't right to add these costs to our already overdrawn national credit card. We all want to help those in need, but the American people also know that someone has to pay when government spends money, and it shouldn't be our children and our grandchildren….So I ask my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to reject this bill today. Instead, let's work together to quickly pass a bill to extend federal unemployment benefits while finding a responsible way to pay for it.”
The vote on this bill was 258-154. 237 Democrats and 21 Republicans voted “yea.” 143 Republicans and 11 Democrats voted “nay.” While a majority of members voted in favor of the bill, a two-thirds majority vote is required for passage under suspension of the rules. Since this bill did not receive a two-thirds majority vote, the measure failed. As a result, the House rejected legislation extending unemployment compensation for laid-off workers whose benefits had expired. Democratic leaders, however, remained free to bring up the bill again under a different process requiring only a simple majority vote for passage.