WASHINGTON - For the third time in as many weeks, Senate Republicans on Wednesday successfully filibustered a bill to continue providing unemployment checks to millions of people.
But this time, since the slimmed-down measure attracted two Republican votes, its passage seems assured this month once a replacement is in place for Sen. Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va., who died Monday.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., a supporter of the bill, had to vote "nay" to take a procedural step that would allow for a revote.
Immediately after the jobless aid vote, the Senate cleared for President Barack Obama's signature a measure to give home buyers an extra three months to finish qualifying for federal tax incentives of up to $8,000 that boosted home sales this spring.
Save for GOP moderates Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine, Republicans uniformly opposed the $33 billion jobless aid measure because its cost would be added to the nation's $13 trillion national debt.
"The only reason the unemployment extension hasn't passed is because Democrats simply refuse to pass a bill that doesn't add to the debt," said Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.
Without an extension, 1.7 million of the 7 million people who have been without a job for at least six months will have lost their unemployment benefits by the end of this week, according to the Labor Department.
"We have a basic responsibility to help our constituents respond to emergencies," Reid said. "We have a fundamental obligation not to deny them the help they need when they need it the most."
Senate Democrats initially combined the unemployment benefits with the extension of the home buyer tax credit. Once the combined measure failed, the Senate passed the home buyer provision by unanimous voice vote.