Senate bill to extend jobless benefits fails test vote
Proposed federal legislation that would have extended unemployment benefits for people without jobs failed to muster even a majority in a test vote in the US Senate, much less the 60 votes that would be required to defeat a GOP filibuster.
Tens of thousands of Massachusetts workers could have benefitted from the extension. The bill also included a provision to set aside millions of dollars to fund summer jobs programs for local teenagers, a story in today's Globe noted. Senator John F. Kerry, Massachusetts Democrat, told the Globe earlier this week that he expected the bill to be approved by the Senate. It is "critical that we do this," Kerry said then of approving legislation to extend the jobless benefits.
Republicans and a dozen Democratic defectors voted against the Senate bill just a few days after President Obama pressed Congress to renew pieces of last year's economic stimulus bill.
Now Obama's Democratic allies have been forced back to the drawing board in their efforts to pass the measure, which also would protect doctors from a looming cut in Medicare payments and raise taxes on investment fund managers. A new, scaled back version of the measure is likely to be revealed Wednesday afternoon.
This morning's defeat of the measure was unexpectedly lopsided as Democratic moderates -- who almost uniformly voted for an earlier version just three months ago -- joined with every Republican against the pending version on a 45-52 tally.
The vote reflected rising voter anger over deficits and the nation's $13 trillion debt. And it's by no means certain the measure can be revived to win moderate Democrats back and garner the handful of GOP votes needed to eventually pass it.
The proposal that was defeated would have restored emergency federal benefits that have allowed unemployed workers in Massachusetts and other states to collect for up to 99 weeks. The program expired about two weeks ago. As a result, an estimated 10,000 Massachusetts residents a week are losing their jobless benefits, according to the state Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development.
Under the proposal, Massachusetts was also in line to receive more than $600 million in funding for Medicaid, the health care program for the poor, to help the state avoid even deeper budget cuts. The bill also included a fix to a glitch in federal unemployment benefits that penalizes workers who take part-time or temporary jobs and $20 million to create 8,500 summer jobs for youth in Massachusetts.
US Senator Scott Brown, Massachusetts Republican, talked about the debate over extending jobless benefits with a Globe reporter last week. Brown said he could support a bill that extended benefits if it did not add to the federal deficit
Brown noted that fellow Senate Republicans had proposed an alternative plan that would impose cuts in other areas to pay for the unemployment extension.
“We can do it without putting another $80 billion on the deficit," Brown said. "You can find a way to pay for these things, there are mechanisms to do it. It’s just a question of making tough decisions.”