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Republicans Continue to Hold Up Unemployment Extension

While legislation to extend unemployment benefits for another 14 weeks is sure to pass with strong bipartisan support in the Senate, Republican demands to debate and amend the measure have kept Democrats from making headway.

“I think it’ll pass. I think [Republicans are] just a little irritated about the way they’re being treated,— Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) suggested.

At issue is an amendment sponsored by Sens. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) and Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), which would extend a tax credit for first-time homebuyers that is set to expire at the end of the year. The amendment, which would extend the credit through June 2010 and open it up to individuals in higher income brackets, is opposed by the Obama administration, and Congressional Democrats are hesitant to bring it up on the floor alongside the unemployment bill.

“This is a problem,— Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said of the amendment, estimated to cost $16.7 billion. “This ought to be a clean bill.—

“Offering amendments can be salutary or defensive,— Durbin added, noting that with expiring unemployment benefits at stake, “There are thousands of Americans counting on a safety net.—

“I think the American people are more concerned about getting a job than getting a check,— Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) said, dismissing the suggestion that there are political implications for Republicans objecting to the unemployment extension measure.

Republicans have twice blocked Democrats from passing the measure unanimously. Democrats are now trying to work a deal with Republicans to get it cleared this week.

“Once the public understands Republicans are standing in the way of unemployment benefits, this bill will come up and it will pass,— Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) predicted.

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