Senate Expected to Extend Jobless Benefits

Posted April 12, 2010 at 11:10am

The Senate on Monday is expected to beat back a GOP filibuster of Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-Nev.) plan for a one-month extension of unemployment insurance and health insurance benefits, GOP aides said.

Although most Republicans oppose extending the programs unless they are paid for, they are willing to support Reid’s plan rather than allow the program to lapse.

Several Republican leadership aides said Reid will have more than the 60 votes needed to invoke cloture on the legislation to move the bill forward.

Unemployment insurance and COBRA health insurance benefits expired April 5 after House Democrats torpedoed a deal between Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) that would have extend the programs for one week. Republicans argued Reid could have invoked cloture during the Easter vacation, but the move would have required him to keep lawmakers in Washington for several more days.

Senate Democrats on Monday attacked Republicans for obstructing the bill, arguing that Republicans are playing politics with the poor. “We have to stop playing politics with these peoples’ lives,” Democratic Conference Vice Chairman Charles Schumer (N.Y.) said. He questioned why Republicans would pursue the strategy after the ribbing they received after Sen. Jim Bunning’s (R-Ky.) filibuster of a similar bill earlier this year.

“It’s amazing that the Republican leadership is giving his filibuster strategy another try,” Schumer said.

Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) agreed, arguing that the opposition is part of a broader GOP effort to block Democratic proposals. “Once again we see this continual drumbeat … by the Republicans to try and stop us from helping families,” Stabenow said.