Your Washington Desk:
Senator Johnny Isakson Newsletter
This week, the Senate voted to confirm Janet Yellen to be the chair of the Federal Reserve. While I have high regard and respect for Ms. Yellen, I voted against her nomination because she has been a main architect of a practice known as quantitative easing. I have major concerns with quantitative easing and believe this practice is masking the real issues that are holding back our economy from creating jobs.
During the rest of the week, the Senate worked on a temporary three-month extension of emergency unemployment benefits.
Emergency Unemployment Benefits
On Tuesday, the Senate held a procedural vote (cloture on the motion to proceed) on S.1845, the Emergency Unemployment Compensation Extension Act. Cloture was invoked by a vote of 60 to 37.
The Emergency Unemployment Compensation Extension Act would provide a temporary three-month extension (through March 31, 2014) of unemployment insurance benefits for people who have been unemployed long-term.
I voted No on this procedural vote on unemployment insurance because I am concerned by the $6.4 billion cost of this bill.
I am working with my colleagues to find a way to pay for this legislation and to include amendments that provide workforce training for unemployed Americans.
To give you some background on this issue, in 2008, Congress created an emergency unemployment compensation program to provide a temporary extension of benefits for long-term unemployed workers who have exhausted up to 26 weeks of state-sponsored benefits. Since 2008, Congress has voted 11 times to extend the Unemployment Compensation Act.
Protecting Military Retirement Pay
Also on Tuesday, I cosponsored an amendment to the unemployment benefits legislation that would reverse the unfair Cost of Living Allowance (COLA) reduction for military retirees and disabled military retirees included in the recent budget agreement. The amendment would also pay for a three-month extension of temporary long-term unemployment benefits.
The amendment, which was introduced by Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), would prevent the $6.3 billion in military retiree benefits cuts and also would pay for a three-month extension of unemployment benefits by stopping a scheme that currently allows illegal immigrants to claim the Additional Child Tax Credit, which currently costs taxpayers billions. The amendment would change the U.S. tax code to require filers to provide Social Security numbers in order to qualify for the Additional Child Tax Credit, a requirement that the Joint Committee on Taxation estimates would save approximately $20 billion over 10 years.
This is a much-needed amendment that generates the money needed to pay for a three-month extension of unemployment insurance and to protect our military from cuts to their retirement pay. Unfortunately, this amendment was prohibited from consideration on the floor of the Senate by the Majority Leader. There’s only one reason Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid wouldn’t let this amendment come to the floor, and that’s if he wants a problem rather than a solution. This amendment is a solution for three major problems Congress should be addressing.
On Tuesday, I joined a bipartisan group of senators in holding a press conference to highlight the need to fix flood insurance this country. I have joined dozens of members of Congress, Republicans and Democrats, in introducing the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Actthat would protect millions of homeowners from facing huge flood insurance premium rate hikes and require the Federal Emergency Management Agency, known as FEMA, to complete an affordability study and propose real solutions to address affordability issues before any flood insurance premiums can be raised in the future.
It’s critically important that we protect Georgians and all Americans from sudden, steep increases in their annual flood insurance premiums that are a result of the Biggert-Waters law. Without action, many homeowners in costal and flood plain areas in Georgia and elsewhere will experience unaffordable premiums that will cause some owners to lose their homes. Also, the Biggert-Waters law has the unintended consequence of causing the value of homes for sale in these areas to drop.
I’m pleased that our bill also requires FEMA to complete an affordability study using the latest technology to ensure that flood insurance is affordable for homeowners and the program is self-sustainable going forward.
What’s on Tap?
Next week, the Senate is expected to resume consideration of S.1845, the Emergency Unemployment Compensation Extension Act.