Unemployment Insurance Passes Procedural Hurdle; Still Has a Long Way to Go

A surprising 10 Republicans joined with Democrats to advance the bill in the Senate.

WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 14: U.S. Sen. Dean Heller (R-NH) speaks to members of the media on unemployment insurance on January 14, 2014 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. The Senate has defeated two votes to renew the unemployment insurance benefits that was expired in December, 2013. (Photo by WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 14: U.S. Sen. Dean Heller (R-NH) speaks to members of the media on unemployment insurance on January 14, 2014 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. The Senate has defeated two votes to renew the unemployment insurance benefits that was expired in December, 2013. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images))
National Journal
Sarah Mimms
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Sarah Mimms
March 27, 2014, 10:40 a.m.

The Sen­ate agreed to clo­ture on a five-month ex­ten­sion of emer­gency un­em­ploy­ment in­sur­ance be­ne­fits on Thursday on a sur­pris­ing 65-34 vote. Ten Re­pub­lic­ans joined with Demo­crats to move the bill for­ward, more than the five who were needed.

The vote puts the meas­ure just an inch fur­ther down the long path to Pres­id­ent Obama’s desk. The Sen­ate still has to take up the bill for fi­nal pas­sage and then it heads to the House where pro­spects for pas­sage do not look prom­ising.

Ad­voc­ates will at­tempt to get un­an­im­ous con­sent on the meas­ure on Fri­day, but that looks un­likely. Ab­sent that agree­ment by all 100 sen­at­ors, a vote for fi­nal pas­sage will come early next week. Sens. Jack Reed, D-R.I., and Dean Heller, R-Nevada, who have lead the un­em­ploy­ment in­sur­ance talks say they are con­fid­ent it will pass the Sen­ate at that point.

Thursday’s clo­ture vote was sup­por­ted by all sev­en Re­pub­lic­an sen­at­ors who co­sponsored the bill, as well as Re­pub­lic­an Sens. Ron John­son of Wis­con­sin, Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania and Bob Cork­er of Ten­ness­ee. But the vote merely al­lows the bill to move for­ward, and it’s un­clear how many of those mem­bers will vote for fi­nal pas­sage, when just 51 yeas are needed.

The high­er the vote count on the fi­nal bill, the more pres­sure it will put on House Re­pub­lic­ans to take up the Sen­ate meas­ure, sup­port­ers say.

The Sen­ate bill would ex­tend un­em­ploy­ment in­sur­ance be­ne­fits for five months, in­clud­ing ret­ro­act­ive be­ne­fits for the es­tim­ated 2 mil­lion Amer­ic­ans who have stopped re­ceiv­ing checks since the pro­gram ex­pired Dec. 28. In oth­er words, the ex­ten­sion will ex­pire for all be­ne­fi­ciar­ies in May.

Cor­rec­tion: This story ori­gin­ally mis­stated the num­ber of Re­pub­lic­ans who voted to ad­vance the bill. The num­ber is 10.

This post has been up­dated.

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