Senate Breaks Unemployment Filibuster

Vote on the 30-day extension of benefits expected later this week.

ByABC News
April 12, 2010, 4:27 PM

WASHINGTON, April 12, 2010— -- It may end up taking them 20 days to do it, but Democrats in the Senate are now on track to extend unemployment benefits for 30 days.

Senators voted 60-34 today to consider a 30-day extension of unemployment benefits and COBRA subsidies for people long out of work. By the time the bill likely passes later this week, Congress will already have to start considering what to do when the temporary extension runs out May 5.

Benefits for 200,000 long-unemployed Americans expired on April 5, according to some estimates and that number could reach more than a million by the end of the month.

But a partisan fight over how to scrape together the $10 billion needed snarled Congress just before Easter and lawmakers left for a two-week break. The vote today essentially breaks the filibuster of most Republicans, who had blocked the bill because they disagree with deficit spending.

Democrats, by and large, have argued that the economic crisis justifies the deficit spending to help the unemployed.

"To them, it doesn't matter than these people lost their jobs through no fault of their own -- or that they're desperate to find a new full-time job -- or that this is an emergency not only for their families, but for our country," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said in a speech antagonizing Republicans on the Senate floor.

Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., who has taken up the mantle of fiscal responsibility, said Republicans want to extend the benefits, but they say it is not worth borrowing money and adding to the federal credit card.

"We all think Americans in need of financial assistance are worth those $9 billion in costs," Coburn said. But he added that in Congress, "We're in the habit of not making hard choices. We're in the habit of doing the least best thing for our future."

Republicans take great pains to make the case that they support extending benefits for people long out of work -- it is Americans receiving benefits for nearly two years who are being hit by this lapse.