Senate Democrats had hoped to quickly pass a bill to extend unemployment benefits in the face of continued increases in unemployment, but Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) objected, saying the Republicans needed more time to come up with their own solutions.
The bill, which was introduced by Democrats Thursday, would have extended unemployment benefits an additional 20 weeks in states with unemployment above 8.5 percent and 14 weeks in all other states. Unemployment is currently at a 26-year high of 9.8 percent.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Senate Finance Chair Max Baucus said they had hoped the bill could be passed via a procedure that allows for a quick vote, but Kyl blocked the bill with an objection on the floor of the Senate, saying, (emphasis added)
I have no doubt that at the appropriate time we'll be able to work out some kind of agreement. But our side is going to need some time to look at it. We'll need some republican ideas or amendments as well and need a CBO score. So at this time I'll have to -- on behalf of members on our side -- impose an objection.
According to the Senate Finance Committee, the proposed extension of unemployment benefits would have been paid for by an extension of Federal Unemployment Tax through June 2011.
Arizona Democratic Party spokesperson Jennifer Johnson said Thursday, "It's disappointing but not surprising that Kyl singlehandedly blocked this vote. Has he forgotten that unemployment has soared to over 9 percent in Arizona?" adding, "Our state is hurting badly and has one of the highest jobless rates. We're not sure who Kyl represents, but it's certainly not ordinary Arizonans."
Kyl has had a rough week. Yesterday, local mothers organized a demonstration outside his Phoenix office to protest his comments against maternity care. He is also taking heat for voting against an amendment that would have prohibited federal contracts with companies that discourage women from pursuing court cases for sexual assaults that occur in the workplace.