In a vote of 60-37, the Senate narrowly passed a temporary extension of jobless benefits allowing the bill to clear the first hurdle towards a final vote in the Senate.
The vote to avoid filibuster was voted on Tuesday morning with six moderate Republicans joining all Democrats present to usher the bill foward. Most Republicans opposed the bill. The bill still needs to make it through several Senate votes before it can be sent to the Republican-controlled House.
House Speaker John Boenher said in a statement, “One month ago I personally told the White House that another extension of temporary emergency unemployment benefits should not only be paid for but include something to help put people back to work.” He continued, stating, “To date, the president has offered no such plan. If he does, I’ll be happy to discuss it, but right now the House is going to remain focused on growing the economy and giving America’s unemployed the independence that only comes from finding a good job.”
The bill, in its current language would restore between 14 and 47 weeks of benefits to the jobless who were affected by the expiration on the 28th. It is estimated that it will affect 1.3 million people. That number will grow as more unemployed reach the end of their state-funded benefits as time progresses.
Republicans are accusing Democrats playing politics and pushing the bill through without $6 billion to pay for the extension of the bill that expired on December 28th. “It is transparent that this is a political exercise, not a real effort to try to fix the problem,” Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said.
Alaska’s Republican Senator, Lisa Murkowski crossed the aisle and voted to advance the bill to a debate, she was joined by Dean Heller of Nevada, Susan Collins of Maine, Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, Dan Coats of Indiana, and Rob Portman of Ohio.
Senator Murkowski said of her vote today, “It is important that we have compassion for those Americans caught up in the administration’s economic policy failures – particularly during the more difficult winter months – but these extensions cannot be unlimited.
“Instead, we need to see far more productive actions to strengthen job creation and restructure existing programs – not just ongoing safety net extensions – while seeking ways to not add to this nation’s deficit. That’s why I cast my vote today to have a responsible, solutions-based conversation about the unemployment problems facing this nation.”
President Obama said immediately after the Senate vote in a speech at tthe White House, “All they’ve agreed to, so far, is that we’re actually going to be able to have a vote on it.” He told supporters present, “We have got to get this across the finish line without obstruction or delay.”