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PolitiFact Florida | St. Petersburg Times
Sorting out the truth in state politics

AFL-CIO's statement on Rubio's position on jobless benefits rated half true

The statement

Marco Rubio "opposes extending unemployment benefits."

AFL-CIO, in a campaign mailer.

The ruling

Does the AFL-CIO detail Republican U.S. Senate candidate Marco Rubio's position correctly?

First, a little background: When workers lose full-time work through no fault of their own, they are usually eligible for unemployment benefits, small weekly payments intended to partially make up for lost wages. Employers pay taxes to fund the program, and states administer it based on federal guidelines. How much a person gets and how long benefits are paid varies by state. Usually, the benefits last about six months.

In tough times, though, Congress often extends benefits, because of the difficulty of finding jobs when unemployment is very high. Congress has been arguing about extending benefits again after extending them five times since President Barack Obama took office in 2009.

This summer, Republicans in the House and Senate balked at extending jobless benefits to about 3 million Americans without first finding a way to offset the $34 billion cost. Republicans proposed to pay for the extension with unspent funds from the 2009 economic stimulus package.

The Senate passed the extension July 21, without cost offsets, by a vote of 59-39. Maine Republicans Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins joined all but one Democrat, Ben Nelson of Nebraska, in supporting the extension without a way to pay for it.

The House passed the benefits extension the next day 275-152. Six Florida Republicans supported the extension in the House — Gus Bilirakis, C.W. Bill Young, Mario Diaz-Balart, Lincoln Diaz-Balart, Bill Posey and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.

How would Rubio have voted?

No, spokesman Alex Burgos told us.

"Marco opposes Washington's continued borrow-and-spend binge that is growing our debt and threatening to diminish America," Burgos told PolitiFact Florida. "While he believes unemployment benefits are legitimate government safety net programs, he would only have supported the last round of extensions if specific cuts were identified to offset the cost."

Burgos' explanation mirrors the one Rubio gave to the St. Petersburg Times' Adam C. Smith on July 20, when the debate over benefits was raging.

Smith wrote that Rubio would support extending benefits "only if specific cuts were identified to offset the $34 billion cost." He then quoted Rubio as saying, "At some point someone has to draw a line in the sand and say we are serious about not growing debt."

The key to Rubio's position appears to have gotten lost in translation by the AFL-CIO, which said in a mailer that Rubio "opposes extending unemployment benefits." Really, Rubio opposed extending benefits without a way to pay for it, which was the main Republican argument in Congress. We rate the AFL-CIO claim Half True.

Edited for print. For more, go to politifact.com/florida.

AFL-CIO's statement on Rubio's position on jobless benefits rated half true 09/23/10 [Last modified: Thursday, September 23, 2010 10:54pm]
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