One Vote Short, Unemployment Benefits Extension Killed in Senate - For Now
Three weeks after Senate Republicans blocked an extension of benefits to the long-term unemployed, another effort to restore the checks fell one vote short of breaking a filibuster.
"It was not the actions of all. It was the actions of a few. We stood one vote away," Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., said. "One person stands between families in America having relief from stress, from strain, from the agony of uncertainty, and having a little something to bridge them forward [while] they look for a job."
Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) accused Republicans of holding the long-term unemployed hostage.
"They are acting like a kidnapper who demanded a ransom, got paid and is still keeping the hostage, or in this case, 1.7 million hostages," Schumer said.
Four Republicans joined with Democrats, but the effort was just one senator short of the 60 required to move forward. After majority leader Harry Reid changed from a yes to a no vote for parliamentary reasons, to allow him to bring the bill up for a vote again,the final tally to go ahead was 58 to 40.
The bill would have extended unemployment benefits for three months. It would have been offset by tweaking an accounting method for defined-benefit pension contributions, an indirect means of raising enough tax revenue to cover the cost of extending the benefits. Aides to Reid point out that in 2012, two dozen Republicans backed a so-called "pension smoothing" plan to hold down student loan rates.
The unemployment measure blocked Thursday would have also adopted a GOP-backed effort to prevent jobless benefits from being paid to millionaires.
Democrats, who predicted the effort would fail, accused Republicans of having no interest in returning the flow of unemployment checks, even if they're paid for and not given to the wealthy.
Republicans have demanded that majority leader Harry Reid bring up an unemployment bill under an open amendment process. Reid has repeatedly refused, saying Thursday that calls to change the bill are a "loss leader."
Having now failed to break a filibuster more than once, Reid pledges he'll try again.
"We are not going to give up on the unemployed," he said.