By Vicki Needham - 07/01/10 01:50 AM EDT
The Senate adjourned Wednesday night after falling two votes short of passing an extension of unemployment benefits after a protracted battle about the nation's debt.
The vote failed 58-38 on the two-pronged measure -- 60 were needed to end a Republican filibuster -- that included a $34 billion six-month extension of unemployment benefits.
Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson (Neb.) was again the lone vote in his party against the bill.
Reid expects the bill will get through the upper chamber once a replacement is named for Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) who died early Monday. Senators return to Washington for legislative business July 12.
The Senate did agree to a separate bill to give homebuyers an extra three-months to close on a purchase that qualifies for a federal tax credit of up to $8,000.
By the time Congress returns, more than 2 million people who have been out of work for six months or longer will have lost their extended benefits, up to 99 weeks in some states with high unemployment, according to the Labor Department.
Benefits lapsed June 1.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) argued tonight that his party has "offered ways of paying for these programs, and we’ve been eager to approve them. But we can’t support job-killing taxes and adding tens of billions to the already unsustainable national debt."
"So the only reason the unemployment extension hasn’t passed is because Democrats simply refuse to pass a bill that doesn’t add to the debt. That’s it. That’s the only difference between what they’ve offered and what we’ve offered."
Reid rejected McConnell's two-month extension, offset by leftover stimulus funds, because he said the money is designated for the tax extenders bill, which is fully paid for.
Senate Democrats acknowledged earlier Wednesday they were one vote short of the 60 votes needed to advance the bill after picking up two Republican votes, Maine Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins.
Besides Nelson -- who opposes any measure that's not offset -- Byrd's death set Democrats back a decisive vote.
All 50 states will lose emergency funding that provides between 34 and 53 additional weeks on top of the state-provided 26 weeks.
Only 11 states could continue with the 13-20 week extended benefits program because triggers based on state's unemployment rate have been worked out separately of the federal program. But at least 20 other states would lose those extra benefits that would provide up to 20 weeks, according to National Employment Law Project.
Overall statistics on unemployment benefits are off the charts -- 46 percent of 15 million unemployed Americans have been out of work for at least six months, with an average jobless for 34.4 weeks, the highest in history, according to NELP and Labor Department statistics.
A total of 54 percent of everyone who use unemployment insurance exhaust all of their benefits.