In a narrow vote Tuesday morning, a handful of Senate Republicans compromised with Democrats to avoid a Republican filibuster to extend unemployment insurance benefits. The 60-to-37 vote extends the legislation for three months, but that extension will only go into effect if the House of Representatives acts, too. So far, it's unclear whether or not that'll happen.
Senate Republicans had been expected to block the bill, and push the demand to find ways to offset the $6.5 billion cost of the legislation. The party's main argument was that it was enacted during the height of the economic recession and not meant to be a long-term benefit. Most Republicans also argued that extending aid discourages the unemployed from seeking a job.
Surprising, however, six Republican Senators tipped the scale: Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), Sen. Dan Coats (R-IN), Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV), Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), and Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH). Said Portman:
I voted to proceed with the debate over how to address unemployment insurance with the hope that during the debate the Senate will agree to pay for the extension and work to improve the unemployment insurance program so it works better to connect those unemployed with available jobs.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) called for a vote on Monday, but Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) made issue that 17 senators were absent due to weather delays. Reid had rallied for last-minute Republican support for Tuesday's vote.
Most Republicans, as well as outside conservative groups, have opposed any measure for the renewal of the bill. Groups like the Heritage Action and Club for Growth are taking note of those who supported the measure in their "annual score cards." Jeez.
Since unemployment benefits were enacted in 2008, they've been extended 12 times. However, Congress neglected to do so the last time around, and as a result, 1.3 million Americans stopped receiving benefits. While the Senate vote is a necessary first step to reinstating unemployment insurance for those Americans, Speaker John Boehner has suggested that he won't put the legislation up for a vote in the House, which would make the extension dead in the water.
He didn't explicitly rule it out, though, so there's still a chance — however slim — that unemployment insurance may get another extension after all.
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