WASHINGTON - The House yesterday approved an extra three months of jobless benefits for all unemployed Americans, knowing the plan's chances are slight in the Senate and almost nonexistent at the White House.
After failing to get a veto-proof two-thirds margin by three votes Wednesday, Democrats got an exact two-thirds margin yesterday with a 274-to-137 vote - the amount needed to overcome a threatened presidential veto.
The Labor Department reported yesterday that the number of people filing new claims for unemployment benefits last week increased by 25,000 from the week before. The unemployment rate in May jumped to 5.5 percent, up from 5 percent in April. It was the biggest one-month gain in 22 years.
"The American people are waiting to see if Congress is going to help them," said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Democrat of California.
But the White House already has threatened to veto the bill, and Senate Democrats have said they won't try to force their Republican colleagues to consider the House legislation.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Democrat of Nevada, said he will try to bring up the House bill, but he won't force the issue if Senate Republicans object. Instead, Reid said, Democrats might attach the jobless benefits extension to the Iraq war spending bill, a move also opposed by the White House.
The White House and Republicans said a bill targeting unemployment benefits only to states that have high unemployment would be more palatable to them.
Republicans said the Democrats are simply trying to get an election-year advantage by making them choose between the extension of unemployment benefits - with 8.5 million people reported unemployed in May - and President Bush's position. Prospective GOP presidential candidate John McCain has also said he would support extending unemployment benefits.