Majority of Senate Democrats back federal unemployment extension

"Unemployment insurance is an essential component of our ongoing economic recovery and provides support to workers and their families who have been laid off through no fault of their own as they search for work.”

More than 2 million would lose their federal benefits on Dec. 30 without congressional action.

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So far, no Republicans have expressed support for an extension, which would probably wind up being attached to a package that would halt tax hikes for most Americans and delay scheduled spending cuts. 

The plan has growing support among House Democrats, and the backing of the White House. 

In the past, Republicans have backed extensions, although they have been a battle to pass. 

Unemployed workers can receive upward of 47 weeks of federal benefits, based on a state's jobless rate, on top of between 20 and 26 weeks of state benefits. 

Without an extension, only state-level benefits would be available. Advocates are pushing for the continuation of the plan passed in January, which would curtail benefits as unemployment rates drop in the states.  

“We need to work together to create more job opportunities," Reed said. 

"But until the labor market improves, preserving UI is one of the most cost effective ways to help struggling families and businesses in our communities.”

A Congressional Budget Office report found that more than 300,000 jobs would be created by continuing the program, which accounts for $1.10 in economic activity for every $1 the government spends. 

A yearlong extension is estimated to cost about $30 billion. 

"Extending unemployment insurance helps sustain demand for local businesses during economic downturns by helping people pay their bills while they look for a new job," Reed said. 

"Cutting off UI now will sap buying power from this economy and could severely hinder the recovery."

Besides Reed, 41 senators signed the letter: Ron Wyden (Ore.), Sherrod Brown (Ohio), Daniel Akaka (Hawaii), Tom Harkin (Iowa), Barbara Mikulski (Md.), John Kerry (Mass.), Debbie Stabenow (Mich.), Sheldon Whitehouse (R.I.), Tom Udall (N.M.), Carl Levin (Mich.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Frank Lautenberg (N.J.), Richard Blumenthal (Conn.), Jay Rockefeller (W.Va.), Maria Cantwell (Wash.), Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.), Al Franken (Minn.), Jeff Merkley (Ore.), Barbara Boxer (Calif.), Jean Shaheen (N.H.), Amy Klobuchar (Minn.), Dianne Feinstein (Calif.), Robert Menendez (N.J.), Herb Kohl (Wis.), Patrick Leahy (Vt.), Bob Casey Jr. (Pa.), Chris Coons (Del.), Dick Durbin (Ill.), Ben Cardin (Md.), Jim Webb (Va.), Mark Begich (Alaska), Bill Nelson (Fla.), Charles Schumer (N.Y.), Mark Warner (Va.), Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), Mary Landrieu (La.), Michael Bennet (Colo.), Jeff Bingaman (N.M.), Patty Murray (Wash.), Kay Hagan (N.C.) and Daniel Inouye (Hawaii).