In a vote delayed from Monday evening due to weather, the Senate held an initial procedural vote Tuesday morning on extending emergency unemployment aid. In a surprise, the measure cleared the 60-vote threshold for moving forward, with Republican Sens. Dan Coats of Indiana and Rob Portman of Ohio joining Dean Heller of Nevada, Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, Susan Collins of Maine, and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, who had expressed support ahead of the vote. The final vote was 60 to 37, with not all senators present, obviously.
Most Republicans wanted to make this vote about how unemployment aid would be paid for—a concern they never had when extending unemployment under George W. Bush and one they obviously would refuse to address by closing even one corporate tax loophole—but the stakes are actually much higher than federal money:
As drafted, the bill would restore between 14 weeks and 47 weeks of benefits averaging $256 weekly to an estimated 1.3 million long-term jobless who were affected when the program expired Dec. 28. Without action by Congress, thousands more each week would feel the impact as their state-funded benefits expire, generally after 26 weeks.
We're talking about money that's just enough to cover the barest necessities, if those, going to people who worked, lost their jobs through no fault of their own, and are actively looking for work now. And because unemployed people can pretty much be counted on to spend their meager benefits right away, the money goes straight into local economies, producing well over a dollar of economic stimulus for every dollar of aid. This is just one of many facts supporting an unemployment benefits extension that most Republicans reliably ignore or deny.
Passage is still not assured in the Senate:
this could end up like background checks, fyi. vote to proceed to debate but not 60 to cut off debate #UI
weird that people assume UI will now pass the Senate. Still have to clear another cloture motion and Collins will likely demand a pay for
Even if the bill does pass the Senate unaltered, House Republicans are likely to insist on cuts in exchange for an unemployment extension; hopefully Democrats will continue to hold their feet to the fire by pushing for a clean vote or, at a minimum, a revenue increase rather than cuts to another important program.
8:37 AM PT:
Boehner issues statement on Senate UI vote, says he's still insisting on pay-fors & measures to grow economy