By a 60 to 40 vote, the Senate voted for cloture on the unemployment extension bill, clearing the way for 2.5 million people to receive retroactive benefits. A final vote could come as early as tomorrow.
For months, Republican leaders have been blocking legislation to extend jobless benefits citing concerns over the $34 billion add to the budget deficit. However, in the same breath, GOP lawmakers have called for $3 trillion worth of extensions on Bush tax cuts for the wealthy – without any offsets.
“After years of championing policies that turned a record surplus into a massive deficit, the same people who didn’t have any problem spending hundreds of billions of dollars on tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans are now saying we shouldn’t offer relief to middle-class Americans,” said President Obama in an address on the economy Monday. “It’s time to stop holding workers laid off in this recession hostage to Washington politics. It’s time to do what’s right – not for the next election but for the middle class.”
The House is expected to take up the measure after the Senate. However, thanks to the Republican stalemate, the bill in its current form is a far cry from its original version introduced last month. While the legislation extends benefits to November, unlike Congress’ previous series of 30-day extensions, it does not extend a 65 percent COBRA subsidy. It does not create an additional fifth tier of benefits for individuals out of work longer than 99 weeks. It does not include an extension of an additional $25 per week in benefits, as provided by last year’s stimulus package. And, it does not include funds to keep teachers and other state employees on the job.