Senate votes to extend jobless aid
WASHINGTON – The Senate approved legislation to extend unemployment benefits Wednesday for 2.5 million jobless Americans, clearing the way for House passage and President Barack Obama’s signature this week.
Approval by the Senate, a 59-39 vote, followed weeks of Republican efforts to block the bill that were snapped Tuesday. But passage came only after Republicans demanded a lengthy final debate Wednesday, doubling down on their strategy to oppose any aid unless it is offset by spending cuts elsewhere in the federal budget.
The House is expected to approve the measure today. Once signed by Obama, aid will resume flowing to unemployed Americans whose jobless benefits have lapsed, and will continue through November.
Democrats spent the day scolding Republicans for delaying the inevitable.
“Why would someone in public service do such a thing?” said Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., the majority leader. “Why would they be so callous?”
Republicans believe popular support is on their side even though they lost a key procedural vote this week that put the unemployment legislation on track to final passage.
“Hard times require hard decisions,” said Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., as he pressed for cuts to finance the unemployment aid. “This isn’t a delay tactic. This is a real philosophical difference about how we get out of the mess we’re in.”
Republicans have made debt and deficit reduction a pillar of their midterm election strategy, appealing to voters who have grown nervous about the record federal debt.