Senate plans to compromise on extending unemployment benefits
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Senate plans to compromise on extending unemployment benefits

Date: April 4, 2011
By: Jordan Shapiro
State Capitol Bureau
Links: HB 163

JEFFERSON CITY - After letting unemployment benefits run out for thousands of Missourians, the Senate leadership promises to revisit the issue by the end of the week.

Floor Leader Sen. Tom Dempsey, R-St. Charles County, said he hopes to bring the $105 million in federal money to the floor again. The federal money would extend benefits for an additional 20 weeks for roughly 10,000 unemployed Missourians who lost their benefits Saturday.

After failing to pass an extension of unemployment benefits at the end of March, the Senate leadership has said they will try again to pass the proposal.

"At the end of the day we will get a vote on unemployment," Mayer said.

Missouri's House overwhelmingly approved the extended benefits months ago, but the proposal has hit a major roadblock in the Senate. Sen. Jim Lembke, R-St. Louis County, has led a filibuster against the funds and said Missouri needs to send a message to Washington about irresponsible spending. Lembke said rejecting the funds would save the federal government $96 million.

Gov. Jay Nixon weighed in on the issue at an April 1 press conference and urged the Senate to reconsider.

"The reality is that too many Missourians are still out of work," Nixon said at the press conference. "As our economy gains steam, it's critical that we continue to stand with these folks and help them get back on their feet."

Lembke, however, said he was looking out for the taxpayer and the federal debt during his filibuster.

"The federal government is broke ... my position is looking out for what is best for the Missouri taxpayer," Lembke said.

Dempsey said they have been trying to compromise with Lembke, discounting a suggestion from one reporter that he might keep the Senate in session as long as necessary to force a vote.

"My focus is on another path and that's trying to get him to understand that I think it's important to work within process, to work with your colleagues, as has been done on many occasions this year. And that is the preferred process I choose to take," Dempsey said.

One compromise that's been suggested would reduce the extension to 10 weeks instead of 20.

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