Senate Fails to Pass 3-Month Extension of Jobless Benefits

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from The New York Times,

The Senate failed to move forward on a three-month extension of assistance for the long-term unemployed on Thursday, leaving it unlikely that Congress would approve the measure soon and dealing a setback to President Obama’s economic agenda.

The vote was 55-to-42, falling short of the 60-vote threshold to break a Republican filibuster effort.

Republicans and Democrats, many from the nation’s most economically depressed states, had been trying to reach a solution that would allow people who have exhausted their unemployment insurance to continue receiving benefits as long as the government offset the $6 billion cost.

Ultimately, how to pay for the program proved too big a hurdle for senators to overcome.

“We’ve given them everything they wanted. Paid for,” said Senator Harry Reid, the majority leader, flashing his irritation at Republicans who blocked the bill.

He said Democrats would keep pushing to extend the benefits, which expired at the end of last year, leaving more than 1.3 million Americans cut off. That number has since grown to more than 1.7 million.

Democrats hope to turn the issue into an election-year cudgel and have been blaming Republicans for ignoring people who are out of work. Republicans have balked at that as political smoke.

“The perception that I get from the Senate right now is, ‘Times are tough. We should make times tougher on our kids to make it easier on us, and then feel better,’ ” said Representative James Lankford, Republican of Oklahoma. “And I think that’s just not a philosophy I’m willing to support.”

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