Senate Advances Bill Extending Unemployment Benefits
The Senate on Tuesday moved a step closer to passing a 14-week, nationwide extension of unemployment benefits, clearing a procedural hurdle that will bring the bill to the chamber floor.
The vote count was 87 to 13 — well beyond the 60 yeas required to proceed to the floor debate.
The proposal had been held up for almost three weeks as party leaders wrangled over a series of controversial GOP amendments, including one to defund ACORN and another to keep illegal immigrants from entering the job market.
Democrats have argued that the Republican amendments are unrelated to the underlying bill. Three times in recent weeks, party leaders have asked for GOP consent to pass the legislation unanimously, only to be rebuffed by Republicans on each occasion.
Meanwhile, unemployment numbers continue to rise. Nationwide, the unemployment rate hit 9.8 percent in September, according to the Labor Department — the highest level since 1983. “It isn’t just the Democrats who are out of work,” Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) said before Tuesday’s vote. “This is a time for bipartisanship.”
The Senate bill would extend unemployment insurance by 14 weeks nationwide, while tacking on an additional six weeks in those states where jobless rates have topped 8.5 percent. The House last month passed a less generous bill, extending unemployment benefits for 13 weeks, but only in high-unemployment states.