WASHINGTON — Speedy passage of a stopgap bill to extend jobless benefits is blocked again in the Senate.
This time the one blocking is Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., who insists that the $9 billion measure be "paid for" to avoid adding to the nation's $12.7 trillion debt.
"What we are doing is stealing future opportunity from our children," Coburn said Thursday.
The clash comes less than a month after Republicans abandoned a similar, unsuccessful battle by Sen. Jim Bunning, R-Ky., that led to an interruption in unemployment benefits eligibility for some people and a two-day furlough for about 2,000 Transportation Department employees.
A stopgap law enacted early this month extends though April 5 unemployment insurance for people who have been out of a job for more than six months, provides health insurance subsidies for the jobless and protects doctors from a sharp cut in Medicare payments.
But another short-term extension of the jobless benefits is needed while House and Senate Democrats work through negotiations on a long-term measure. Those talks have slowed, prompting Democrats to move to extend benefits for an additional month.
Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky tried to tie legislation to extend benefits to the new pay-as-you-go budget law, which requires new benefit programs to be offset with spending cuts or tax increases so they don't increase the deficit. Democrats said no.
"We really believe that the unemployment situation is an emergency economic situation. Republicans do not accept that," said Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., the majority whip.