WASHINGTON -- Senate Democrats, with the help of a pair of Maine Republicans, broke a GOP filibuster this afternoon and set up an expected vote late tonight or tomorrow to approve an extension of unemployment benefits for the long-term jobless.
The 60 to 40 vote to move the bill ahead ended a Senate deadlock that has cost 2.5 million Americans their benefits, including tens of thousands in Massachusetts, since June 2.
The close vote and political drama highlighted how jobs and the economy will dominate debate in the upcoming Congressional elections.
The vote split the Massachusetts delegation, as Republican Scott Brown voted against allowing the bill to move forward, agreeing with his fellow GOP members that the $34 billion for the unemployment extension should only be approved if it does not add to the deficit; John Kerry and Democrats say the government needs to respond to an economic emergency, to avoid more people slipping into financial crisis and losing their homes.
Benefits would be good through November, and retroactive to June 2. The vote this afternoon was to begin 30 hours of debate, and will require another vote before it goes to the House, which is expected to approve the measure on Wednesday.
Democrats overpowered the Republican filibuster with the help of two moderate Republicans from Maine—Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins—and the vote of newly appointed Senator Carte Goodwin, of West Virginia, sworn in to fill the seat of Democrat Robert Byrd, who died June 28.
Barely 10 minutes after Vice President Joe Biden administered the oath of office to Goodwin, the Senate began the roll call vote.
About Political Intelligence
Glen Johnson is Politics Editor at boston.com and lead blogger for "Political Intelligence." He moved to Massachusetts in the fourth grade, and has covered local, state, and national politics for over 25 years. E-mail him at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.