Unemployment benefits bill on hold until Byrd replacement named

Democrats have 59 of the 60 votes needed to pass a bill. They have support from two Republicans — Maine Sens. Susan CollinsSusan CollinsSenate braces for fallout over Supreme Court fight Overnight Finance: WH wants to slash billions | Border wall funding likely on hold | Wells Fargo to pay 0M over unauthorized accounts | Dems debate revamping consumer board Lawmakers call for pilot program to test for energy sector vulnerabilities MORE and Olympia Snowe — but have lost Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson (Neb.) over deficit concerns. 

That leaves them one vote short of passing a bill to provide extended benefits to millions of Americans who have been unemployed for more than six months. 

If Congress can’t act by the end of the month, more than 3.2 million of the nearly 5 million who are receiving the extended benefits will lose them. 

Supporters argue that it puts a multibillion dent into consumer spending — about 7 billion a month — adversely affecting the economic recovery. 

Those opposed say the bill should be paid for and would only add to the nation’s growing debt.