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Jobless benefits bill up for 2d try

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Associated Press / June 12, 2008

WASHINGTON - The House yesterday narrowly defeated a Democratic attempt to give unemployed Americans an extra three months of jobless benefits after the White House threatened to veto the bill. But Democratic leaders said they will bring the bill back for a second vote today.

The bill would have extended the average $300-a-week unemployment benefit by 13 weeks for all Americans. Job seekers in high unemployment states like Alaska, California, Michigan, and Rhode Island would have been able to get an extra 13 weeks on top of that.

House Democrats brought up the bill under a procedure that required a two-thirds vote for approval. The final vote was 279 to 144, three votes shy of the number needed for passage and to overcome a presidential veto.

House majority leader Steny Hoyer, a Maryland Democrat, said today's vote will only need a majority for passage. "We're not going to let this sink," Hoyer told reporters after the vote.

In the Senate, Democrats planned to add the measure to a must-pass war spending bill.

Majority Democrats said the legislation was needed because of the tough economy and rising unemployment rates.

But the White House said emergency steps like extending unemployment benefits have historically been taken only when the unemployment rate jumps considerably higher than the 5.5 percent reported for May. It also complained that the bill gives extended benefits to all states regardless of their unemployment rates.

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