Missouri Needs to Restore Extended Benefits (UPDATED)

(UPDATE) Just hours after saying he would stop blocking a vote to continue federal extended benefits for unemployed workers in Missouri, state Senator Jim Lembke and three other Senators -- whose filibuster has caused nearly 10,000 Missourians to have their unemployment benefits cut-off -- have changed their stories yet again.

From the St. Louis Beacon (with VIDEO):

A group of Missouri state senators is putting conditions on ending a filibuster now blocking about $300 million in federal money for extending unemployment benefits and helping public schools around the state.

The lawmakers -- including state Sens. Jim Lembke, R-Lemay, and Brian Nieves, R-Washington -- told reporters today that they will drop their objections only if Gov. Jay Nixon agrees to $300 million worth of cuts from other programs financed with federal stimulus money.

The same AP reporter who earlier filed the initial story, later today reported this:

Several Missouri state senators who have been blocking a vote on extending federally-funded jobless benefits say they will only relent if the governor agrees to the elimination of $300 million in federal stimulus spending.

The condition is a change from earlier Wednesday, when a senator leading the filibuster said he would allow a vote on the unemployment bill and instead try to block up to $400 million of stimulus spending.

Barb Shelly on the Kansas City Star's 'Midwest Voices' called the latest maneuver "a cynical ploy by Missouri Sen. Lembke and his followers":

False alarm. Sen. Jim Lembke and his three feckless followers had no intention of standing down and allowing the Missouri legislature to accept federal benefits to help the people who have had the hardest time in the job market.

Word was earlier today that the gang of four was ready to make a deal. Turns out it was just more grandstanding. Their “deal” was that Gov. Jay Nixon would have to find $3 worth of cuts for every $1 the benefits would cost.

Sure. Nixon should cut state services more deeply than he’s already had to, hurt more Missourians, probably lay off state employees and add to the unemployment rate — all of that so Lembke and company can back out of the jam they’ve gotten themselves into and declare victory. Don’t think so.

Our original post is below, with numbers to call and messages to send:

The Missouri legislator who has been leading a filibuster for weeks, blocking a state Senate vote to continue federally-funded Extended Benefits, has told the Associated Press that he will drop the filibuster.  Senate sources say they believe the bill will come up for a vote in the next 24 to 36 hours, and that it is expected to pass.  Unemployed workers, their family members and supporters can help make sure the state Senate acts to restore the unemployment benefits, which lapsed last Saturday due to the delay.

From the AP via NPR:

A Missouri state senator said Wednesday that he would stop blocking a vote on whether to extend federally-funded jobless benefits that expired for thousands of Missouri residents, vowing instead to try to stop hundreds of millions of dollars of federal stimulus money.

Republican Sen. Jim Lembke told The Associated Press that after talking to Senate leaders, he agreed to end his filibuster of a vote that would reauthorize the benefits that expired for about 10,000 Missouri residents on Saturday. Lembke said he instead will try to block the state from spending as much as $400 million of federal stimulus act money on such things as home energy efficiency programs for low-income residents and a study about high-speed rail service.

...

Lembke has led a coalition of four Republican senators that has come under increased pressure from Republican legislative leaders and Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon to renew Missouri's participation in a federal program that provides 20 additional weeks of jobless benefits to people who have been out of work for a year and a half. Until Missouri's eligibility for the program recently ended, no state that joined the federal program had later voluntarily quit it.

Lembke said the unemployment legislation, which already has passed the House, could come to a vote this week in the Senate. That could allow Missouri to retroactively issue unemployment benefits to the people cut off from the program. It also could allow benefits to flow to an additional 24,000 people who are projected to become eligible for the extended jobless benefits during the next nine months.

For weeks we have been reporting on Sen. Lembke's obstruction of the federally-paid benefits.  Last week we launched an online email and telephone campaign to tell Senators Lembke, Nieves, Kraus and Schaaf to stop blocking the unemployment benefits bill.  To date, more than 17,000 email messages have been sent to Missouri senators.  Click this link to keep sending them a message:  Stop blocking the unemployment benefits bill and allow a vote to restore the Extended Benefits to thousands of Missouri's jobless workers.

Call these Senators and tell them they must not block a vote on Extended Benefits for Missouri:

Sen. Jim Lembke: (573) 751-2315

Sen. Brian Nieves: (573) 751-3678

Sen. Will Kraus: (573) 751-1464

Sen. Rob Schaaf: (573) 751-2183

And call these state Senate Leaders to thank them for continuing to push for a vote on the unemployment bill.

Tell them they must use every procedural tool necessary to ensure a vote on the unemployment bill.  They must not allow unemployment benefits for Missourians to be held hostage to the job-killing agenda of four senators.

Sen. Majority Leader Tom Dempsey: (573) 751-1141

Sen. President Rob Mayer: (573) 751-3859


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