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GOP Holds Up Final Senate Vote on Unemployment Extension Until Tonight

Yesterday, Senate Democrats cleared the 60-vote cloture hurdle to restoring federally extended unemployment benefits for 2.6 million American families. The bill needs a final majority-rules Senate vote, a House vote and President Obama’s signature to become law. Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.), the majority leader, had hoped that Senate Republicans would waive the procedural 30-hour window between the cloture vote and the final vote — giving Democrats consent to move on. The GOP refused. Reid blasted them on the Senate floor, and promised to spend the remainder of the 30 hours continuing to do so:

We just passed badly needed legislation to help 2.5 million unemployed. To show the lack of understanding and feeling and compassion of the Republicans, they’re making us waste 30 hours. There are people who are desperate for this money — desperate. And they’re making us wait because that’s what the rule of the Senate is.

**Now, I hope the American people understand how callous this is. People are desperate, can’t make house payments, car payments, can’t pay for kids’ food. And they are having us wait for 30 hours after cloture’s been invoked. We only need a simple majority to pass this bill now, but they’re making us wait. I just can’t articulate in strong enough feelings how unfair this is to 2.5 million people. **So would the chair rule on my consent?

Earlier today the Senate invoked cloture on the legislation to extend unemployment insurance benefits. As a result, debate on the measure is limited to 30 hours. **Now, we can finish this 30 hours after this passed, sometime around 9:00 tomorrow night. If that gives these people over here [Republicans] some feeling that — that 2.5 million people deserve this, then let them do it. **I would hope we could come in the morning and get this thing done and so this bill could go on to the House, the house has to pass it and then to the President.

Every hour that is delayed is more misery for 2.5 million people. The debate over whether it’s paid for or not is over with, it’s clear, all experts say that this money that is spent will return to us CBO says twofold. John McCain’s chief economic advisor says it will come back $1.61 for every $1 we spend.

**Now, if they think that they’re getting even, with who? 2.5 million [unemployed] people because it passed? So I hope we can reach agreement to yield back some of the post cloture time so we can complete action on this bill at a reasonable time tomorrow. **Upon disposition of the unemployment bill, the Senate will resume consideration of the small business jobs bill – which is good legislation we need to get to.

I want everybody to understand, the Republicans better be ready tomorrow to defend their position. Because we’re going to have people come during this 30 hours and show how ridiculous it is that we’re having to wait for 30 hours. No amendments can be offered. Nothing can be done under that 30 hours except speeches. So I would alert my friends, come and explain to the American people how this 30 hours has helped the American people.

That means the final Senate vote will happen around 9 p.m. tonight. The House can vote as early as Thursday, and Obama should have the bill on his desk then.

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