Senate votes to extend unemployment benefits

The Senate late Thursday approved a short-term extension of unemployment benefits, ending an impasse that had dragged on for weeks.

But the issue could come up again early this summer. The Senate voted 59-38 to extend the benefits until June 2, when they would need to be extended again. The measure now moves to the House. 

The Senate moved to a final vote after breaking a GOP procedural objection in a 60-38 vote.

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The vote ended a weeks-long disagreement between Democrats, who said the bill should be considered “emergency spending” that did not have to be offset by spending cuts, and Republicans, who objected because the benefits will add to the federal deficit.

Democrats countered that Republicans had voted for funding for the Iraq war and tax cuts without offsetting those expenses with spending cuts.

Democratic Sens. Mark Warner of Virginia and Bill Nelson of Florida were absent, but three Republicans crossed the aisle, Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine and George Voinovich of Ohio.

Sen. Scott Brown of Massachusetts had also supported Democrats on a procedural vote Monday, but reversed himself and voted against the procedural motion on Thursday.



Both parties were unable to reach an agreement before the recent two-week congressional recess, which caused benefits to expire for 400,000 unemployed people over the past two weeks.

Although they lost Thursday's vote, Republicans said they accomplished a public-relations victory over the week by raising awareness of Democrats' spending habits.

“The vast majority of the American people want us to pay for this, and the Congress didn't,” said Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), who was at the center of the debate as the lead Republican blocking the benefits.

“What does that tell you? It tells you that we're thumbing our nose again at the American people. The (debt) goes right to your kids.”

This story was updated at 9:26 a.m. An earlier version included an incorrect date.