Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi

200 Members Sign Discharge Petition on Health Care for the Unemployed

April 11, 2002

House Democratic Whip Nancy Pelosi issued the following statement at a news conference today on Democratic efforts for a discharge petition to force a vote on health care benefits for the unemployed.

“What a difference a year makes. When President Bush took office, we had the strongest economy in the nation's history and the largest budget surpluses in a generation. Today, the economy is slowly recovering from recession and unemployment keeps getting higher.

“Approximately, 8.1 million Americans are out of work, there is a $4 trillion deficit, 1.7 million unemployed workers have used up their unemployment benefits, and that number is expected to reach three million by June.

“These numbers don’t lie--there is tremendous economic pain among working families in this country, and we need to take action now. Unfortunately, the Republican Leadership in Congress doesn’t think so.

“When it comes to economic recovery, the Democratic position is simple: create jobs and help unemployed workers get back on their feet. But the Republicans have been tone deaf when it comes to helping the unemployed. They have refused to schedule any legislation to help them.

“That is why my colleague, Steve Israel, initiated a discharge petition last month to force a vote on the House floor. We want a vote on Jim McDermott’s bill that would: help pay for 75 percent of COBRA health care benefits for those who have lost their jobs; would provide money to pick up the other 25 percent; and expand the number of people who can receive unemployment benefits.

“In less than one month, 200 Democrats have signed our discharge petition. Congressman Rod Blagojevich signature today helped us hit the 200 mark.

“We have done our job. Now we need Republicans to step forward and join us in this effort. So I am asking our Republican colleagues today to show the American people that they are committed to helping those who have been directly affected by the tragedies of September 11.

“I am asking them to join us in this effort to bring a comprehensive unemployment insurance bill to the floor that includes health care benefits for unemployed workers.

“We need to act on this now and give real health care relief to the thousands of unemployed workers without coverage.”

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