A bill to extend long-term unemployment benefits has–somewhat surprisingly–cleared a key hurdle in the Senate.
"It was in the balance until the very last moment," Sen. Jack Reed, the Rhode Island Democrat who sponsored the bill, said after the vote. "I was hopeful but I guess being Irish, I'm always expecting the worst. Yeah, I was surprised, but that might be more cultural than political."
A procedural 60-37 vote in the upper chamber Tuesday reached the 60-vote threshold needed to facilitate a final vote, with six Republicans joining Democrats: Sens. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire; Dan Coats of Indiana; Susan Collins of Maine; Lisa Murkowski of Alaska; Rob Portman of Ohio; and Dean Heller of Nevada, who co-sponsored the measure Reed.
Federal emergency insurance for the unemployed expired Dec. 28, and 1.3 million were kicked off the rolls. The program offers benefits to the jobless who have run out of state benefits, which run 26 weeks in most parts of the country.
The bill the Senate will now vote on would retroactively provide benefits to those who lost them on Dec. 28, and will extend benefits for another three months. Republicans have balked at that idea, and leadership in the House insists that there be an offset to pay for the cost of extending benefits. The Senate bill has no such provision.