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learnedly read, too; in part, of intellectual rigor
Posted Tuesday, July 20, 2010
WASHINGTON - Legislation to restore unemployment benefits to millions who have
been out of work for more than six months broke free of Senate Republican
delaying tactics on Tuesday. Senators voted 60-40 to move ahead on the bill,
clearing the way for a final Senate vote later on Tuesday. The measure would
restore jobless checks for 2.5 million people whose benefits started running out
seven weeks ago in a stubbornly jobless economic recovery.
extension clears Senate hurdle
|By Andrew Taylor,
The vote was a modest victory for President Barack Obama and Democrats, whose
more ambitious hopes for a jobs agenda have mostly fizzled in the face of GOP
opposition in the Senate. A battle has raged for months over whether jobless
benefits should be financed with additional federal debt as Democrats want or
through cuts to other government programs as most Republicans insist.
The vote came moments after Carte Goodwin was sworn in as a successor to West
Virginia Democrat Robert Byrd, who died last month at the age of 92. Goodwin was
the crucial 60th senator to defeat a Republican filibuster that has led to a
lapse in benefits for 2.5 million people. The Senate gallery was packed with
Goodwin supporters, who broke into applause as he cast his "aye" vote.
Two Republicans, Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine, voted to end the
filibuster. Ben Nelson of Nebraska was the lone Democrat to break with his party
and vote to sustain it.
After a final Senate vote, the House is expected to approve the legislation and
send it to President Barack Obama on Wednesday.
The measure would be the eighth extension of unemployment benefits since July
2008, at a total cost to taxpayers of more than $120 billion. The economy added
882,000 jobs so far this year - but many of those were only temporary positions
as the federal government geared up to conduct the U.S. Census.
Economists said it will take at least until the middle of this decade to recoup
those losses and drive down the nation's unemployment rate, now at 9.5 percent,
to a more normal 5.5 percent or 6 percent.
About 2.5 million people would receive jobless benefits retroactively, injecting
almost $3 billion into the economy once they're paid out. Millions of others
will continue to receive payments that would help prop up consumer demand to the
tune of about $30 billion more over the coming year.
"This bill is about jobs because unemployment insurance goes to people who will
spend it immediately," said Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont. "That would increase
economic demand. And that would help support our fragile economic recovery."
But Republicans say that while they support the benefits extension it should be
paid for with cuts elsewhere in the $3.7 trillion federal budget.
"We've repeatedly voted for similar bills in the past. And we are ready to
support one now," said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. "What we do
not support - and we make no apologies for - is borrowing tens of billions of
dollars to pass this bill at a time when the national debt is spinning
completely out of control."
Democrats tout the economy-boosting effect of unemployment checks since most
beneficiaries spend them immediately. But the numbers amount to less than
one-quarter of 1 percent of the size of the $14.6 trillion economy, and are far
smaller than last year's $862 billion stimulus legislation. Republicans have
blocked Democratic add-ons, such as aid to state governments, that could have
meant a greater economic boost.
"It's too small to have any noticeable impact on the economy's growth rate,"
said Joel Naroff, president of Naroff Economic Advisors. "But the benefits do
provide an important safety net for people during these difficult economic
The measure would extend benefits averaging $309 a week through the end of
November. Maximum benefits in some states are far higher; in Massachusetts, the
top benefit is $943 a week. In Mississippi, the top benefit is just $235.
The White House signaled Monday that the administration may seek another renewal
of benefits in November if unemployment remains painfully high.
After initially feeling heat this winter when a lone GOP senator, Jim Bunning of
Kentucky, briefly blocked a benefits extension in February, the GOP has grown
increasingly comfortable opposing the legislation.
___ Associated Press writer Jeannine Aversa contributed to this report.
Copyright © 2010 The Associated Press
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