Senate Democrats Break Filibuster to Extend Unemployment Benefits

Senate Democrats defeated a Republican filibuster Tuesday and are expected to pass legislation that will grant a six-month extension of unemployment benefits for an estimated 2.5 million Americans.

The 60-40 vote to break the filibuster and end debate on the bill was expected after Sen. Carte Goodwin (D-West Virginia) was sworn in to replace the late Sen. Robert Byrd (D-West Virginia).

Republicans blocked the legislation three times in as many weeks over concerns about deficit spending. The bill most recently failed to pass the Senate by one vote on June 30.

The House is expected to quickly pass the bill, which will then be sent to President Barack Obama for approval. Obama blasted Republican lawmakers on Monday for stalling the bill, appearing at a press conference with three unemployed workers.

Obama and his allies in Congress claim the $33.9 billion in emergency unemployment funding will stimulate the economy and bring much needed relief to the Americans who have been out of work the longest.

The benefits expired in June, and the new bill will retroactively fund benefits from June through November.

The Hill reported that two Maine Republicans, Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, joined Democrats in breaking the filibuster, but conservatives continued to complain about passing a bill without a plan to pay for it.

“The fact is, this debate isn’t about unemployment insurance,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) said on the floor Tuesday morning. “There’s no debate in the Senate about whether we should pass a bill. Everyone agrees that we should. This debate is about whether in extending these benefits we should add to the debt or not.”

Meanwhile, a big emergency war supplemental to fund operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and bolster border security has enjoyed healthy support from Republicans as Democrats in Congress squabbled with the White House over domestic education funding riding on the bill.

Unemployed Americans have been out of work longer than any other time in history. The share of families with at least one unemployed member rose 4.2 percent to 9.4 million families last year, the highest number since the Labor Department began tracking them in 1994.