WASHINGTON (CN) – Unemployment benefits expired for 200,000 Americans on Monday because lawmakers went on their spring recess without passing a short-term extension.
The emergency one-month extension was to be passed under a unanimous-consent agreement under the Continuing Extension Act of 2010, but Republican Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma blocked it, saying the government needed to find money in the budget to pay for the $10 billion extension.
“[O]ur debt and deficits are as much of an emergency as our unemployment rate,” Coburn said in a statement. He asserted that he did not single-handedly block the extension, saying he voted for Congress to stay in session until it worked out the issue.
“Any person with a thimble full of common sense could identify $9.2 billion of waste in our more than $3.5 trillion budget,” Coburn said. “Yet, Congress finds this task so painful they would rather leave town and let certain unemployment benefits expire.”
Of the 14.9 million unemployed Americans, 11.4 million are collecting unemployment compensation, costing the government $10 billion per month.
The Senate’s failure to pass the bill also means lapses in funding for COBRA, which provides interim health insurance to workers who lose their benefits.
The Senate is expected to address the issue after Congress starts up again on April 12. The extension already passed in the House.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the nationwide unemployment rate held steady in March at 9.7 percent.