Dems expect GOP benefits block to backfire

March 29, 2010 at 4:26 PM
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WASHINGTON, March 29 (UPI) -- Democrats said they expect a backlash against Republican senators who, for a second time in March, are blocking a quick extension to U.S. jobless benefits.

Last week Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., blocked Democratic efforts to vote on another month's extension of jobless benefits at a cost of $9.2 billion. Without the extension, benefits will expire April 5.

Democrats said the deadline would pass without a vote because Congress is scheduled to be out of session until April 12, The Hill reported.

Coburn's blocking passage means Republicans will bear the brunt of criticism for benefit checks being interrupted, Democrats said.

Earlier in March Sen. Jim Bunning, R-Ky., objected to a quick vote on a $10 billion, monthlong extension, only to back off under Democratic criticism. The measure enjoyed bipartisan support when it passed and was sent to President Barack Obama's signature.

Besides extending unemployment insurance, the bill would prevent scheduled cuts to Medicare payments to doctors, extend COBRA healthcare subsidies for the unemployed and extend a satellite television licensing agreement that would allow rural residents to view network television.

Republicans object because the measure isn't paid for, adding to the federal deficit. Democrats say the unemployment benefits extension falls under the category of emergency spending so it doesn't meet the pay-as-you-go requirements.

"The American people recognize it's time -- I'm not sure that Congress does -- that we start making difficult choices," Coburn said.

Democratic Rep. John Yarmuth of Kentucky said he was surprised Coburn threw up the roadblock.

"Having seen first-hand the embarrassment Jim Bunning brought to Kentucky when he committed a similar disservice to the American people, I'm surprised Sen. Coburn would think it wise to single-handedly stand between American families and the resources they need to make ends meet," Yarmuth said.

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