The Senate cleared a key procedural hurdle in extending long-term unemployment benefits to approximately 1.3 million Americans for another three months.
The vote advanced by a razor-thin margin of 60-37.
In the end, enough Republicans (six) joined Democrats in moving along the bill. The bill, co-sponsored by Sens. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) and Dean Heller (R-Nev.) needed 60 votes to advance.
The six Senate Republicans who voted to advance the bill were Sens. Kelly Ayotte (N.H.), Dan Coats (Ind.), Susan Collins (Maine), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), Rob Portman (Ohio), and Heller. There are 53 Democrats in the Senate, plus two Independents who caucus with Democrats.
Senators applauded on the floor when it was clear the bill had enough votes to advance.
President Barack Obama will speak from the White House at 11:40 a.m. ET on extending unemployment insurance. The White House supports the bipartisan Senate bill, but the House of Representatives has signaled it is unlikely to take it up. Republicans have been open to an unemployment extension, but want the costs offset with other spending cuts.
Democrats now hope to move to final passage on the bill by the end of the week, but it’s unlikely that an extension will be taken up in the House without a deal to pay for the approximate $US6.5 billion cost.
As drafted, the bill would restore unemployment benefits at an average of $US256 weekly. The unemployment benefits expired for those 1.3 million long-term unemployed on Dec. 28.
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