The fate of federal jobless benefits hangs in the balance as legislation stalled in the Senate on Tuesday, reports The Hill.
The Senate voted down procedural motions on two measures to extend the benefits, which go to workers after they have exhausted state benefits.
The motions required 60 votes for passage.
A proposal to end debate on Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-Nev.) proposal to extend benefits by 11 months was rejected in a 52-48 vote. Reid’s proposal would have paid for the extension with cuts to spending in 2024.
The Senate then rejected a motion to end debate on a three-month extension in a 55-45 vote. That bill didn’t include any spending cuts to offset the measure’s $6 billion cost.
Senate Democrats and Republicans have also been unable to agree to an amendment process.
Reid proposed limiting amendments to five for each party and said he would insist on a 60-vote threshold, which guarantees that no GOP amendments would be approved. He then said that, in return for allowing amendment votes, Republicans should let the bill be approved or rejected by a simple majority vote, without the need for a 60-vote threshold to end debate.
Read more at The Hill. President Barack Obama has been urging Congress to reach a level of bipartisanship and pass an extension of unemployment benefits. He laid out his argument in a persuasive speech on January 7:
Now, I’ve heard the argument that says extending unemployment insurance will somehow hurt the unemployed because it zaps their motivation to get a new job. I really want to go at this for a second. That really sells the American people short. I meet a lot of people as President of the United States, and as a candidate for President of the United States, and as a U.S. senator, and as a state senator — I meet a lot of people. And I can’t name a time where I met an American who would rather have an unemployment check than the pride of having a job.
So letting unemployment insurance expire for millions of Americans is wrong. Congress should make things right. I am very appreciative that they’re on their way to doing just that thanks to the bipartisan work of two senators. You had a Democrat from Rhode Island, Senator Reed, and you had a conservative Republican from Nevada, Senator Heller. And despite their political differences, they worked together on a plan to extend unemployment insurance at least for three months temporarily while we figure out a longer-term solution.
Around 1.3 million Americans thus far have been impacted by the ending of emergency unemployment benefits. The White House says that if nothing is done regarding the extension soon, it may impact the economy with the loss of 240,000 jobs.