Rep. Levin on unemployment extension: "It must be done"

Dec 12, 2011

Michigan Congressman Sander Levin says Congress should cancel its winter recess if members can’t reach a deal to extend unemployment benefits.

Right now, the federal government supplements state unemployment programs to offer assistance for the long-term unemployed--up to 53 weeks of emergency benefits since the country slid into recession in 2008.

But those benefits will lapse January 1 if Congress doesn’t act this month.

Levin, the ranking Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee, says if that happens, a historically unprecedented number of people will run out of benefits.

“If we don’t act next month, over a million people in this country will lose unemployment benefits,” Levin says. “By February, it will be two million.”

“And that’s unconscionable. So we have to act. And there’s been a stalemate,” said Levin.

The unemployment extension has gotten tied up with other hot-button issues in Congress, such as whether to extend current payroll tax cuts, and a proposed oil pipeline between Canada and the U.S.

Some Republicans also want to cut long-term benefits back by as many as 40 weeks. That includes Michigan Representative Dave Camp, who chairs the Ways and Means Committee.