WASHINGTON — Legislation to resume long-term unemployment insurance for 1.3 million jobless Americans cleared a key hurdle Tuesday in the
The 60-37 vote came moments before President
Senate Majority Leader
"There are people really hurting," Reid said, noting he watched as people tried to help a homeless person on Constitution Avenue in the morning's nearly sub-zero temperatures, just blocks from the White House. "We have a country where not everyone's benefiting from what's going on."
Most GOP senators opposed the bill. They prefer to keep the 2014 election campaign focused on the problems with
They say such aid discourages workers from finding new jobs and said they would only support the measure if the $6 billion cost of the proposed three-month extension were offset by budget cuts elsewhere.
“I’m a little surprised at the fervor with which the majority is dedicated to reviving the expired emergency unemployment benefits after they ignored the issue all of last year,” said Sen.
McConnell offered an amendment Tuesday that would have provided an extension of the unemployment insurance benefits in return for a one-year suspension of the healthcare law's requirement that all individuals carry health insurance. It was rejected by Democrats.
"We're now in the sixth year of the Obama administration," McConnell said. "We all know the stock market's been doing great. So the richest among us are doing just fine. But what about the poor? What about working-class folks? ... Well, record numbers of them are having a terrible time."
Outside conservative groups, including the Club for Growth and Heritage Action, urged opposition and warned senators that votes would be noted in the groups' annual score cards. Heritage explained in a note to senators that unemployment benefits were not a "free lunch."
Still, in states like economically hard-hit Nevada, Republican Sen.
Federal unemployment insurance coverage expired on Dec. 28, leaving 1.3 million long-term jobless Americans without the emergency income stream. The federal benefits, which kick in after workers exhaust an initial 26 weeks of insurance provided by most states, have regularly been renewed by