(Washington, D.C.) – Today on the Senate floor, Senator Murray (D-Wash) introduced a bill to extend unemployment benefits to laid-off workers. The Senate is scheduled to adjourn for the year in mid-November, but U.I. benefits will expire on December 31st. Murray believes Congress must pass an extension before it leaves town for the year.

Senator Murray’s remarks follow:

Madam President, in just a couple minutes I’m going to offer a Unanimous Consent request to move to consideration of a bill to provide extended unemployment compensation benefits to displaced workers and to those who have exhausted their benefits.

Madam President, today there are nine million Americans who are unemployed, and the percentage of long-term unemployed is at a 20-year high. Our first priority in this Congress should really be to get the current unemployment benefit extension, which, as my colleagues know, expires at the end of December. Our economy creates only one job opening for every three unemployed Americans. It’s clear that the current federal program is inadequate to address the needs of Americans in today’s troubled economy.

Another extension with no additional weeks of benefits will leave far too many of our workers today and their families out in the cold. In my home state of Washington, there are 124,000 people who will exhaust their benefits by the end of this year. In addition, more than one million Americans have run out of unemployment benefits and remain without work. These Americans have been stretching their savings, refinancing their homes, moving in with other family members, and depleting their retirement accounts. Three out of four workers are now running out of benefits before they find a job.

Now in past recessions, we have included these workers in an additional extension, but so far Republicans have insisted on leaving them out. The Emergency Unemployment Compensation Act, which we are introducing, would help 4.6 million Americans make ends meet while they for a new job.

Madam President, I know we are dealing with a forest health issue here today that’s extremely important to many senators, but we also have thousands of Americans whose extensions are going to run out very shortly. Everyone is working very quickly here to wrap up all of the bills. We all want to go home. I know that when we go home, we want to make sure that the people we go home to are not left out in the cold.

So, Madam President, I ask unanimous consent that the Finance Committee be discharged from further consideration of S.1708, a bill to provide for a six-month extension of unemployment compensation with additional weeks of benefits, modified to strike Title 2 and ensure that high unemployment states are not penalized for having high unemployment throughout the recession, that the Senate then proceed to its immediate consideration, the bill be read three times, passed, and the motion to reconsider be laid upon the table, without intervening action or debate.

[Note: At this point, a Republican Senator objected to Senator Murray’s motion. Then Senator Murray asked when her bill would be debated.]

Mrs. Murray: I heard the objection from my colleague on the other side, and I just would like to have him respond, if he would, as to when the Senate will consider this important piece of legislation. As I said in my remarks, I know we’re dealing with an issue that’s important to many states, but we’ve got to provide some financial relief to millions of Americans as we approach the holiday season, and I know my colleague understands that the current extension ends on December 31. We’re all working quickly to go home, and I want to know if we can get a commitment that we will go to this bill so we can provide for these workers, so they can pay for the food and shelter and medicine that’s so important to them. Can my colleague tell me when the Senate will consider this legislation?

[After some discussion, Senator Murray concluded.]

Mrs. Murray: Madam President, I thank my colleague. I know he is not in a position to speak for his leadership at this time. Madam President, I would just say to all of my colleagues, it is critical that we allow time for debate as soon as possible. We can take as short as 10 or 15 minutes to get this passed.

We have thousands of constituents across the country whose benefits are going to expire. If we wrap up this session and go home, we are going to leave them out in the cold without the ability to put food on the table, pay their rent, pay their mortgage, pay their college tuition bills, and really make it through a very difficult time.

As we all know, unemployment in this country has risen. We know that thousands more people today are unemployed than they were a year ago. The numbers are rising. The extension needs to be passed.

I would just notify my colleagues that I intend to continue to come to this floor on a daily basis to try to bring this bill up until we get a commitment from the Republicans to have a vote on this extension.