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Senate vote ends GOP filibuster of extended jobless benefits

WASHINGTON — Democrats broke Republican-led opposition to a bill that would extend unemployment benefits to 2.5 million jobless Americans Tuesday, but the vote only hardened the divide between the parties and almost assured any further domestic aid before November will be all but impossible.

Though the Senate reached the 60 votes needed to end a GOP filibuster and force a final vote on the legislation, prospects for the next spending bill — which would enable states to avert teacher layoffs — appear doomed.

A vote that would send the unemployment benefits legislation to the House could come as soon as today. The House is expected to pass the bill and send it to President Barack Obama's desk for swift approval.

Obama's high-profile push for the unemployment extension has inspired further animosity from Republicans, who say voters are more concerned about the nearly $1.5 trillion federal deficit than government attempts to spur the economy with more spending.

But Democrats intend to press forward this week with new initiatives to promote job growth, further testing the parties' differing approaches to economic issues heading into the midterm elections.

"The other side stood in the way for so long," said Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., the majority leader, after Tuesday's procedural vote. "It shouldn't take the slimmest of margins to do what's right."

Unemployment aid had stalled since June as most Senate Republicans repeatedly blocked bills they believe would add unnecessarily to the national debt.

Most Republicans want to pay for the jobless benefits by using unspent funds from the economic recovery bill passed last year. Democrats say unemployment benefits have traditionally been considered emergency spending and don't need a funding source. Republicans blocked three previous attempts to approve unemployment aid.

The measure passed Tuesday was a scaled back $33.9 billion unemployment package, shorn of earlier domestic spending proposals. The bill would extend benefits through November, and be retroactive to the late May cutoff.

Senate Democrats overcame the GOP-backed filibuster 60-40, joined by two Republicans, Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine. One Democrat, Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska, voted no. Florida Republican George LeMieux voted no and Democrat Bill Nelson voted yes.

The newest senator, Carte Goodwin, cast his vote minutes after being sworn in by Vice President Joe Biden as West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin's appointee to replace the late Democratic Sen. Robert Byrd. Manchin, 62, said Tuesday he will run for Byrd's in the state's Aug. 28 primary.

Also Tuesday

• Senate efforts to pass an energy bill with carbon controls appeared in doubt as leaders said they still lack the needed votes. Only a handful of GOP senators have said they might back a plan to set prices on heat-trapping carbon emissions. A compromise plan to put controls on emissions from only utilities has not attracted the 60 votes needed to advance it. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Democrats will meet Thursday to seek "a way forward."

• President Barack Obama is calling on Congress to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act, which he calls a common sense bill to ensure that women get paid as well as men for equal work. The legislation would make it easier for women to sue employers who pay them less than men. The House passed the bill in 2009, but it failed to clear the Senate.

developments

Also Tuesday

• Senate efforts to pass an energy bill with carbon controls appeared to be going nowhere, as only a handful of GOP senators have said they might back a plan to set prices on carbon emissions. A compromise plan to put controls on emissions from only utilities has not attracted the 60 votes needed to advance it. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Democrats will meet Thursday.

• President Barack Obama is calling on Congress to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act, which he calls a common sense bill to ensure that women get paid the same as men for equal work. The bill would make it easier for women to sue employers who pay them less than men. The House passed the bill in 2009, but it failed to clear the Senate.

. developments

Also Tuesday

• Senate efforts to pass an energy bill with carbon controls appeared in doubt as leaders said they still lack the needed votes. Only a handful of GOP senators have said they might back a plan to set prices on heat-trapping carbon emissions. A compromise plan to put controls on emissions from only utilities has not attracted the 60 votes needed to advance it. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Democrats will meet Thursday to seek "a way forward."

• President Barack Obama is calling on Congress to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act, which he calls a common sense bill to ensure that women get paid as well as men for equal work. The legislation would make it easier for women to sue employers who pay them less than men. The House passed the bill in 2009, but it failed to clear the Senate.

Senate vote ends GOP filibuster of extended jobless benefits 07/21/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, July 21, 2010 12:10am]

    

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