Passing by a vote of 59-38, it momentarily raises the hopes of more than 2 million Americans who saw those benefits expire in December.
But the Senate's move sends the legislation into limbo, as the House of Representatives remains unlikely to take up the bill under the current plan, shaped by a deal hammered out by a bipartisan group of 10 senators last month.
The Senate's version is an amendment wrapped in a House bill. It exempts volunteer firefighters and emergency responders from counting toward an Affordable Care Act provision requiring small businesses over a certain size to provide employer-sponsored health insurance. The amendment extends unemployment insurance payments forward five months, as well as retroactively making payments that would have gone out to long-term unemployed since December, when the benefits expired.
But Speaker of the House John Boehner has indicated his unwillingness to bring the deal up in the House, citing complaints that the deal's provisions would place too-high burdens on the state agencies issuing the payments. He has also complained that the measure does not include job-creating measures.
Nevada Republican Dean Heller, one of the architects of the Senate deal, said he hopes he'll be able to appeal to the leader of House to change his mind.
“I’ve told my staff: Get me a meeting with Speaker Boehner and let’s see what we can do to motivate them to move this legislation," he said at a press conference last week.
And at least some of Boehner's Republican colleagues say they support the bill.
“We want it extended,” said Rep. Peter King of New York, in a letter urging Boehner to move the measure forward. “We respectfully request that the House immediately consider this bill or a similar measure to restore unemployment benefits to struggling Americans."
Washington Rep. Cathy McMorris Rogers, the head of the Republican Conference, said the caucus would decide what direction to take once the Senate vote was over.
“There will be a conversation," she said. "We’re waiting to see what the Senate actually passes."
Senate will pass #RenewUI tonight. Hope to build on bipartisan momentum & get it passed in House. Pls let House Reps know where you stand.— Senator Jack Reed (@SenJackReed) April 7, 2014
Richard Blumenthal (@SenBlumenthal) April 7, 2014
I commend the Senate bipartisan effort to extend UI benefits for nearly 3 million Americans. The House must now follow suit & #RenewUI!— Nancy Pelosi (@NancyPelosi) April 7, 2014