A small group of senators is jeopardizing 20 more weeks of unemployment benefits for thousands of Missourians because they want to send a message to Washington.

The legislature needs to pass a bill by tomorrow to claim more than eighty-million dollars in federal funds to finance benefits for the long-term unemployed.  But Senator Jim Lembke of St. Louis says Missouri should refuse the money because it’s part of the federal budget deficit.  When quizzed by senate leader Rob Mayer about where the money would go if Missouri doesn’t claim it, Lembke responds, “China,” then admits he doesn’t know where it will go.

 Mayer says the money will just go to other states for their jobless if Missouri fails to pass the bill. Lembke says Mayer sounds “very compassionate.”   But Lembke, who says he’s sorry his position doesn’t sound as compassionate.  But he says 99 weeks of benefits is “too much.” 

One of Lembke’s allies in blocking a vote, so far, St. Joseph senator Rob Schaaf, says extended benefits are incentives NOT to work.  He says the state needs to encourage people to go to work.  A third senator, Brian Nieves of Washington, says he gets tired of hearing that if Missouri doesn’t take the federal money, other states will get it.  He says it’s “wrong” to keep taking money from Washington with the federal debt in the trillions of dollars.

When Mayer asked Lembke if there might be people who have sought jobs and can’t find them and who could be served by extended benefits, Lembke had no direct answer.

 Lembke & Mayer during Senate debate mp3