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Jobless benefits measure falls one vote short in Senate
In a final attempt to fund a temporary three-month extension and retroactive payments for long-term jobless benefits, by introducing technical tweaks to the budget, failed to clear a key procedural hurdle in the US Senate.
The so-called cloture motion on a funding amendment proposed by Rhode Island Democrat Jack Reed was supported by 59 of the 60 senators needed to end a filibuster and move to a simple majority vote. (Senate majority leader Harry Reid supported the measure, but changed his vote to “nay” in a tactical move that preserves his right to reintroduce legislation at a later stage.)
Nearly two million out-of-work Americans saw their hope of having their benefits restored fall just one vote short on Thursday, as a last-ditch effort to extend an emergency program for the long-term unemployed narrowly failed to move forward in the Senate.
The federal program, which was introduced after the banking crash to help unemployed workers once their state benefits expired, itself ran out in December after Republicans insisted that new measures should be found to pay for it.
Payments were halted for 1.7m existing recipients in the New Year. Each week, there are over 60,000 more people who otherwise would have been eligible for the benefit, but now can not recieve it.
Four moderate Republicans – Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Dean Heller of Nevada – joined Democrats in voting to pursue the amendment, which would allow passage of an extension bill that was originally co-sponsored by Heller.
“There is one Republican vote standing between 1.7m Americans and the lifeline they need to make ends meet,” said Reid, who insisted he would seek fresh negotiations with Heller to see if there is any other way of passing the measure.
The Senate setback is another blow for president Barack Obama’s commitment to making 2014 a year of action on poverty and inequality.
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