Tonight, a bill to extend federal unemployment insurance benefits for the long-term unemployed failed in the Senate, 58 to 38. The vote was technically only one short of 60; Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) voted no for procedural reasons.
Republican Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine voted for cloture on the $34 billion bill, which was not offset and therefore increased the deficit. But Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) refused to cross the aisle. Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) voted with the Republicans. Without Sen. Robert Byrd’s vote — the 92-year-old veteran of the Senate passed away earlier this week — Senate Democrats found themselves one vote short.
Reid says the Senate will vote on the bill as soon as Byrd’s replacement is in place. He offered this statement after the failed cloture vote:
These are difficult days for thousands of Nevadans and millions of Americans who have lost their jobs through no fault of their own, and there are few words that can comfort these workers who go to sleep every night worried about their economic uncertainty. That’s why Democrats tried again tonight to extend unemployment benefits that workers and their families depend on as a lifeline while they continue to look for work.
It is beyond disappointing that Republicans continue to stand almost lockstep against assistance for out-of-work Americans — especially since many of these same Republicans spent months protecting Wall Street and preserving tax cuts for CEOs who ship American jobs overseas.
We will vote on this measure again once there is a replacement named for the late Senator Byrd. In the meantime, I sincerely hope that Republicans will finally listen to the millions of unemployed Americans who need this assistance to support their families in these tough times. These Americans and millions more demand that Republicans stop filibustering support for unemployed workers.
By the time Byrd’s replacement is in place, in mid-July, 2 million Americans will have lost their benefits. The bill extending them will have languished in the Senate for something like 11 weeks.