WASHINGTON — Republicans on Thursday blocked Democrats' election-year jobs bill, including an extension of weekly unemployment benefits for millions of people out of work more than six months.
The 57-41 vote fell three votes short of the 60 required to crack a GOP filibuster, delivering a blow to President Barack Obama and Democrats.
The bill would also have provided $16 billion in new aid to states, preserving the jobs of thousands of state and local government workers and providing what White House officials called an insurance policy against a double-dip recession. It also included dozens of tax breaks sought by business lobbyists, and tax increases on domestically produced oil and on investment fund managers.
Without the bill, unemployment benefits will phase out for more than 200,000 people a week. Governors who had been counting on federal aid will now have to consider a fresh round of budget cuts, tax hikes and layoffs of state workers.
"This is a bill that would remedy serious challenges that American families face as a result of this Great Recession," said Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., the chief author of the bill.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said, "It adds new taxes and over $30 billion to an already staggering $13 trillion national debt."
One Democrat, Ben Nelson of Nebraska, voted with Republicans. Democrat Robert Byrd of West Virginia and Republican Lisa Murkowski of Alaska did not vote.
Doctors would be temporarily spared a 21 percent cut in Medicare payments under a bill passed by the House on a 417-1 vote Thursday. The measure would delay the cuts six months while lawmakers work on a more permanent solution to reduce spending. The bill, passed last week by the Senate, now goes to Obama for his signature.
Sanctions for Iran
Congress on Thursday overwhelmingly passed new sanctions against Iran, sending a message to the Tehran government that notions of becoming a nuclear power could be accompanied by a steep economic price. The Senate vote was 99-0, and the House vote was 408-8. The legislation includes penalties for foreign companies that assist Iran's energy sector and a ban on U.S. banks doing business with foreign banks dealing with the Revolutionary Guard or aiding Iran's nuclear program.
Campaign bill passes
Four months before midterm elections, the Democratic-controlled House approved new limitations on the political activity of outside interest groups Thursday after carving out exemptions that benefit the National Rifle Association as well as labor unions and numerous federal contractors. The vote was 219-206 on the legislation that Democrats trumpeted as a move to bring fuller disclosure to shadowy campaign ads and that Republicans attacked as an unconstitutional restriction on free speech. In a statement, Obama praised the bill, although he said, "I would have preferred that it include no exemptions." He urged quick action in the Senate, where Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has pledged to seek a vote but strong Republican opposition make its prospects uncertain.
Support for Kagan
The American Bar Association wrote senators Thursday giving Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan its highest rating. Kim J. Askew, chairwoman of the committee that reviewed Kagan's qualifications, said it reached its conclusion unanimously, with one person abstaining.