House Approves Jobless Benefits, but Checks Aren’t in the Mail

Posted July 1, 2010 at 2:28pm

The House passed a five-month extension of unemployment benefits on Thursday, but checks aren’t headed to the jobless anytime soon since a similar measure failed in the Senate earlier this week.

That leaves Congress poised to adjourn for roughly 10 days without restoring unemployment benefits that expired a full month ago.

The 270-153 vote on the five-month extension came two days after House Democrats fell short of the two-thirds majority needed to pass it under an expedited procedure that bars amendments and limits floor debate.

“Republicans in the Senate, have again and again … stopped unemployment benefits from going to people who have lost their jobs through no fault of their own,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told reporters Thursday morning at her weekly press conference. “It is just cruel, and … it cannot stand, and I believe that this will be passed when we come back. We have passed it over and over again, and today we will pass it again to remove all doubt.”

Democrats have been blasting Senate Republicans for repeatedly blocking attempts to extend jobless benefits in that chamber, most recently on Wednesday night when Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) again fell short of the 60 votes needed to cut off debate on the package. That bill, which drew support from Maine’s two Republican Senators, tied the unemployment extension to an extension of a tax credit for first-time homebuyers. Senate Democrats also tried unsuccessfully to pass the unemployment extension as part of a broader tax extenders bill.

Ways and Means Chairman Sander Levin (D-Mich.) urged Senate Republicans to “rise above politics” and help pass the unemployment extension as soon as possible.

To accommodate memorial services for the late Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.), the Senate already has wrapped up its business for the week, meaning the chamber will not act on the unemployment extension or any other bills until after the July Fourth recess.

An aide to Pelosi said Democratic leaders were committed to retroactively restoring benefits to the unemployed who have gone without aid for more than a month.