Congressman Ben Ray Luján Calls on Speaker Boehner to Keep the House in Session Until Unemployment is Extended

Congressman Ben Ray Luján of New Mexico’s Third District joined with 113 of his Democratic colleagues today on a letter calling on House Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor to keep the House in session until an extension of unemployment insurance is passed.  At a time when more than 6,700 New Mexicans and 1.3 million Americans have seen their unemployment insurance run out, the House is scheduled to recess for a district work period next week.

“The American people expect their elected representatives to work until the job is done.  Unfortunately, Republicans leaders of the House have no agenda to get people back to work or address the expiration of unemployment insurance for thousands of our friends and neighbors in New Mexico,” Congressman Luján said.  “Rather than closing down the House next week, Republican leaders should stay in Washington and do the job the American people sent us here to do.  As long as families are living with the stress of worrying what they are going to do when they are still unable to find a job and unemployment insurance is cut off, the House should remain in session and work on a solution that extends the safety net during this difficult economic time.”

In addition to the 6,700 New Mexicans who have already lost unemployment insurance, 9,000 more individuals across the state will lose federal unemployment benefits over the next six months without Congressional action.

Below is the text of the letter:

Dear Speaker Boehner and Leader Cantor,

On December 28, 1.3 million Americans immediately lost all of their unemployment insurance when the Emergency Unemployment Compensation program expired.  While this number grows higher with every week of Congressional inaction, the House of Representatives is scheduled to recess for district work period today for 10 days.  This is unacceptable.  Another 100,000 Americans will lose their benefits during this break while the families who lost their benefits right after Christmas will continue struggling to put food on the table, heat their homes, and pay their bills weeks after they lost this lifeline.

The Emergency Unemployment Compensation program is an investment with a proven economic return, and it is the right thing to do for American families.  Every dollar spent on unemployment benefits generates $1.55 or more in economic activity.  These benefits have also keep hundreds of thousands of American children out of poverty.

In the almost three weeks since the December 28 deadline, over 200,000 more Americans have exhausted their state benefits and are now unable to receive assistance under the expired federal program.  The number grows higher every day.  Approximately 72,000 Americans will lose their unemployment benefits every week – the equivalent of one person every 8 seconds.

There are legitimate policy discussions to be had about exactly how we should extend federal unemployment insurance, but we cannot find common ground when the House of Representatives is not in session and when this legislation is not even being considered in the House. The clock is ticking.  This is why we urge you to cancel the pending district work period and keep the House of Representatives in session until both the House and Senate have sent legislation to the President to extend emergency federal unemployment benefits.  Thank you for your consideration and we stand ready to work with you on this critical issue.