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Senate advances jobless benefits extension in bipartisan vote

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Jan. 8, 2014) — The Senate voted 60-37 on Tuesday to limit debate and avoid a filibuster of legislation to extend unemployment insurance for the 1.3 million jobless workers who were left out in the cold this holiday season by House Republicans who did not renew the emergency jobless benefits. Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell of Washington joined all Senate Democrats in supporting the measure, along with six Republicans. The bill still requires another vote for final passage.

joblessHouse Republicans have said they won’t approve an extension unless budget cuts are found in other areas to offset the cost of the legislation, estimated to be $6.4 billion for three months. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has indicated that he is open to offsetting those costs, but says it will be difficult to identify any federal programs that can withstand additional cuts.

The legislation would restore benefits averaging $256 weekly to the long-term jobless cut off when the program was allowed to expire on Dec. 28. An estimated 24,400 people actively looking for work in Washington state have already lost their benefits. Without action by Congress, thousands more in Washington and hundreds of thousands more throughout the country will feel the impact in the months ahead as their state-funded benefits expire, generally after 26 weeks.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said:

Unemployment insurance serves as a lifeline for millions of jobless Americans and their families. For many job seekers, unemployment benefits are the difference between total hopelessness and a place to live and food on the table.

The urgent business before us now is fixing what’s wrong with our economy. Maintaining the unemployment benefits program won’t just keep families out of crisis. It helps to spur the economy and keep it growing. This inaction for workers is costing the U.S. economy at least $600 million a week.

Trumka added:

The Senate should quickly act to pass this bill and the House must act immediately. Further failure will mean more than 3 million more qualified people who will be denied extended benefits. Millions of Americans counting on unemployment insurance to help them through tough times are counting on the House to do the right thing. We cannot afford to leave any working families behind.

AFL-CIO Now contributed to this report.

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