Unemployment Extension Benefits a Win for Barack Obama

unemployment-extension-benefits-a-win-for-barack-obamaUnemployment Extension Benefits a Win for Barack Obama, Jobless benefits are sure to be an issue during the 2010 election campaign - After weeks of Republican deadlock and stalling at the final hour, the Senate Wednesday passed a $34 billion measure to extend benefits to jobless Americans whose insurance ran out in June.

The legislation passed minutes before 9 p.m. by a 59-39 vote. The Senate took the full 30 hours to vote on the final passage, a standard rule that members usually wave. Two Republicans from Maine, Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins voted in favor of the bill, days after the pair strayed from their party to vote for financial reform. Lone Democrat Ben Nelson voted against it. “I support extending unemployment benefits for Nebraskans and Americans who remain out of work,” he said in a statement Tuesday. “However, I opposed the Senate’s unemployment bill today because it should have, and it could have, been paid for.”

The bill will restore benefits to about 2.5 million people who have been unemployed for the past six months, according to recent numbers released by the Department of Labor. Since jobless insurance ended on June 2, the benefits when passed will be retroactive, and will last through November. Depending on the state’s unemployment rate, benefits can last up to 99 weeks.

The House gave final approval to the measure today and sent it to the White House. Obama is expected to sign it quickly. If he does, this will be his third bill signing this week.

The Senate broke a month long filibuster Tuesday night, thanks to Snowe, Collins, and the chamber’s newest and youngest member, Carte Goodwin of West Virginia. Just minutes after he was sworn in to the Senate to replace the late Robert Byrd, Goodwin cast his first roll call vote to help give Democrats the 60 votes needed to end debate.

Republicans said they wanted to pass unemployment benefits, as they had under the Bush administration, but were concerned about adding to the growing federal deficit. They suggested using leftover funds from the stimulus and other spending bills to offset the costs. Democrats cited the nation’s 9.5 percent unemployment rate as reason to pass an emergency insurance bill. “Millions are waiting for a fraction of their old income in checks that will help them keep food on the table this week, and keep a roof over their heads this month and keep the air conditioning on this summer,” said Majority Leader Harry Reid on the Senate floor.

— Politics. US News