Senate Ends Stalemate on Unemployment Benefits

The Democrats garnered the 60-40 vote needed to open floor debate in the Senate on a bill that would extend unemployment benefits to 2.5 million people through November. The vote came only minutes after Carte Goodwin was sworn in as West Virginia’s new senator and cast his first vote to help the Democrats end the weeks-long Republican filibuster. Ben Nelson was the only Democrat voting to continue the filibuster, while Republicans Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins voted to end it. 

Though the $32 million measure, which will be paid for by new borrowing, must still pass the full Senate, the House is reportedly standing by to swiftly shepherd the bill to President Obama by Wednesday for his signature. If the bill passes, it will restore benefits to jobless Americans whose unemployment payments started dwindling when the filibuster began, and would provide retroactive benefits to those who lost them when the program lapsed in May.  

The measure seems poised to pass. But while Republicans say they support extending benefits, many like Senate Minority Leader Mitch O’Connell argue that the measure’s costs must be offset by cuts in the $3.7 trillion federal budget. "There's no debate in the Senate about whether we should pass a bill—everyone agrees that we should," McConnell said. "This debate is about whether in extending these benefits we should add to the debt or not."

Politico reports that Republican resistance and fighting within the Democratic Party are stifling similar efforts to breathe life into the economy. A $70 billion package of tax breaks and jobs-related measures is still one vote short of clearing, writes David Rogers of Politico.

While the measure may help curb the effects of joblessness in the immediate future, 15 million unemployed Americans are still waiting for solutions.

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