All 53 Democrats and two Independent senators, along with Republicans Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, Susan Collins of Maine, Dean Heller of Nevada and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, supported the bill, which would have allowed a plan to extend unemployment benefits for $6.4 billion over three months to clear cloture for a final vote.
But when it became clear a 60th vote was not forthcoming, Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., switched his vote to preserve his right to bring the measure up again.
“We are not going to give up on the unemployed,” Reid said before the vote, acknowledging that the effort was likely to fail.
Opposition to extending the insurance to some 1.7 million out-of-work Americans comes from two primary sources: the belief that the aid incentivizes the unemployed to quit looking for work, and the interest in offsetting the cost.
Democrats, looking to use the Republicans' opposition as a weapon in November's midterm elections, say the GOP believes the unemployed are lazy.
“We’ve given them everything they wanted. Paid for,” Reid added. "They can't take yes for an answer."
But Republicans, caught between looking heartless for withholding help to the needy, should they block the extension, and seeming to abandon the principles of smaller government with less spending if they support it, recognize the strategy.
“We know it’s a political game,” said Senator Orrin Hatch, R-Utah. “We know they’d like to bring it up every three months and bash Republicans with it.”
The next step is one most will agree on: Reid said the Senate will likely vote Monday to repeal unpopular cuts to military pensions, without an offset.
Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said that issue is one everyone can get behind.
It "is very simple," he said. "Our veterans have paid a big price already."
[New York Times]
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