Congressman Hakeem Jeffries (NY-8)
Congressman Hakeem Jeffries (NY-8)
Congressman Hakeem Jeffries (NY-8)

In this exclusive interview, Congressman Hakeem Jeffries (NY-8) talks to The Brooklyn Reader about his efforts to address unemployment in Central Brooklyn, Republican obstructionism and why the bill to extend unemployment insurance benefits to nearly 3 million Americans died in the House of Representatives on June 1.

Brooklyn Reader: UPI reported on Monday that the bill to extend long-term unemployment insurance benefits has died quietly in the House of Representatives. Is there a plan by the House Democrats to make a statement about this and/or continue to bring public attention to this issue?

Congressman Hakeem Jeffries:  We believe that a majority exists in the House of Representatives to pass an unemployment compensation benefit extension. But the GOP leadership continues to hold the legislation hostage.

This is not inconsistent with steps that the House majority has taken to obstruct progress for the American people, as theyre also preventing a vote on a minimum wage increase and comprehensive immigration reform.

House Democrats have put forth a discharge petition that I believe every single Democratic Congress member in the country has signed, which would have forced a vote on the bill sent to us by the Senate. However, in order to get to the 218 number necessary to discharge a bill out of committee and force a vote on the House floor, it would have been necessary for Republican members to sign the petition as well.

And it is my understanding that not a single Republican in the House joined onto the effort to force the bill out of committee so that unemployed Americans can get the vote they deserve.

BR: The chief argument by Republicans for not renewing unemployment insurance was that it was unpaid for and it did not create jobs. Is that true that it would not be paid for, and if not, do the House Democrats have a plan for how it would be financed?

HJ: The senate bill was bi-partisan and did include a pay-for, in terms of the unemployment compensation. Speaker Boehner has indicated that the pay-for was inadequate and he also indicated that he wanted to see some sort of jobs package.

The notion that the Speaker of the House is holding up the unemployment compensation legislation based upon his desire to see activity in the area of job creation is phony. It is a false narrative. The President has put forth the American Jobs Act, which would create infrastructure in transportation investment, as well as provide an opportunity for states to hire people in the fields of police protection, via an education.

But the House has again failed to bring that bill to the floor. The only thing the House majority seems interested in with respect to job creation is the Keystone pipeline. But as the President has indicated, that project is under environmental review and were not in a position to move forward until we can be clear that the health and well being of the American people will not be jeopardized.

BR:While unemployment among the general population within Brooklyn is at around 10 percent, it’s at 16 percent for African Americans and still a bit higher for African Americans in your district of Central Brooklyn, at 18.3 percent. Rep. Sander Levin of Michigan has taken up this issue personally by dedicating the front page of his House website with a state-by-state statistic on the number of unemployed and how much money each state has lost as a result of not renewing the bill. Particularly because your district is most devastated by the employment situation, are there any plans to take up the issue personally?

HJ: There have been several different times Ive spoken on the House floor to this issue, the minimum wage issues as well as other numerous agenda items that have been obstructed.

In terms of public policy activity, one of the things that weve been working on since the moment I came to office is a Section 3 initiative to try and bring to life the responsibility that NYCHA has under Section 3 of the 1968 HUD Act to provide employment opportunities to public housing residents whenever construction funds are provided by the federal government.

Its been a law that has been on the books for more than 40 years, but often has been either un-enforced or under-enforced. Ive had conversations as high as with the President of the United State, Mayor de Blasio, with the NYCHA chair, Valerie Jarrett and HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan related to bringing Section 3 to life in the way that would benefit public housing residents and residents of the surrounding communities.

The reason I will continue to raise it, is because it is a situation where we can actually do something around unemployment in places like Central Brooklyn, South Central Los Angeles, and the South Side of Chicago without Republican action. We just need NYCHA perhaps pushed by HUD to bring it to life.

There is probably no singular issue that I have consistently spoken on more than this. And Ill continue to do so.

Weve got to fight the good fight on Republican obstructionism, but at the same time figure out ways we can download the power of the federal government into neighborhoods that are struggling the most, without legislative action. The most promising area is Section 3.

BR: How optimistic do you feel about the possibility that a bill extending unemployment compensation will be raised again or brought to the House floor again? Or do you feel that its dead?

HJ: I remain optimistic that eventually the obstructionist house majority will be forced to cave as theyve done in other instances related to the fiscal cliff, sequestration, the government shutdown and the debt ceiling.

But it will take continued pressure from the President, the Senate House majority, House Democrats and the American people in order to create conditions where they ultimately crack. But I have no doubt that they will crack.

You can watch all of the speeches and floor statements by Congressman Hakeem Jeffriess on his YouTube page here.

House Budget Committee Hearing: Status Report on the War on Poverty

MSNBC’s Ronan Farrow Daily: We Need to Address Racially Based Income Inequality

Join the Conversation


  1. I like the way this Congressman talks. I believe that an extension will take place, but remain concerned about when. Will we be set aside, while office campaigning rule the day? Just the thought, that over 3.5 million former employed, tax-payers, who lost their jobs and unemployment benefits, at no fault of our own, can be forgotten, by our elected officials, is scary. Congressman Jeffries is still putting in work and I truly appreciate his efforts. Now, I wonder if the Congressman ever ” runs ” into our sitting President? If so, could he please ask President Obama to apply his considerable powers and get the extension done?

    1. YEESSSS I agree we all have been hanging on to long, people have falling off the rope, i’
      am hanging on but , i’am falling . Please help before I fall off the rope don’t know how long I can hold on anymore. Please help slipping off.

  2. All unemployed and the supporters of the unemployed. Please go to:

    We the people petition to the Obama Administration to renew he federal Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC) program which expired December 28, 2013.

    After you have done so please share the link with friends and social media like Facebook, Google +, Twitter….

    Together we can make a difference to help those individuals who can not care for their families.


  3. This new unemployment extension petition on was created on May 19 and has until June 18 to gather the required 100,000 signatures in order to have the forced response and subsequent awareness raised to politicians. As of this writing, it is up to 5,797 signatures and has a long road to travel in the next two weeks. Here’s the link

    If the 3 million and counting unemployed affected by the extension bill were to raise awareness of this petition, its possible that the White House would be forced to respond as dictated by the terms of the website. If that occurs, then major news media would take note and the issue may become more paramount in the minds of politicians. So I would recommend sharing the petition or even this article on social media so that your friends and family might help reach the goal of 100,000 signatures…

    Renew the federal Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC) program which expired December 28, 2013.

    There are over 3.5 million long term unemployed Americans, including over 200,000 military veterans, who have lost EUC benefits since December 28th, 2013. Please put politics aside and help these hard-working, responsible Americans make ends meet and support their families as they look for a job. For each week that Congress fails to act on this crucial issue, approximately 70,000 more long-term unemployed Americans lose their vital economic lifeline. Please give John Boehner a call and ask him to allow the House of Representatives to vote on the bipartisan approved Senate bill to extend EUC benefits, which awaits a House vote. Also, please tell Congress to work harder for those who are struggling to get back into the workforce, because our nations future depends on it.


    Renew the federal Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC) program which expired December 28, 2013.

    Heres the link

    This new Unemployment Extension petition on has until June 18 to gather the required 100,000 signatures. White House would then be forced to respond as dictated by the terms of the website. It is up to 5,933 signatures and has two weeks. PLEASE SHARE.

  5. I am voting completely democratic and/or liberal next election. I urge all of you to vote completely left, even if it’s the Independent party, anything but the heartless Republicans.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.