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Unemployment Benefits Bill Sails Through Senate After Lengthy Delay

The Senate unanimously approved an unemployment benefits package Wednesday that for a month has been stalled over partisan wrangling on a handful of amendments.

The bill, which grants 14 weeks of unemployment benefits and a total of 20 weeks to hardest-hit states, was widely trumpeted by Democrats and Republicans after it cleared the Senate.

“By helping unemployed workers keep from falling further behind, and helping middle class families get ahead, we’re taking positive steps to get our economy back on track,— Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) said in a statement.

Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), who traded jabs with Republicans over the delayed action on the bill, said “this overdue extension cannot come at a more critical time.—

“The fact that the Senate passed this bill overwhelmingly — 98-to-nothing — only underscores the Republicans’ narrow-minded and short-sighted strategy to waste the American taxpayer’s time — even on necessary and non-controversial bills,— Reid blasted in a release just after the floor vote.

Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) and Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) also pushed the legislation.

The nearly $21 billion measure includes an extension of the popular homebuyer’s tax credit — language crafted by Dodd and Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) and tax relief for businesses. The bill now heads to the House, where it is expected to pass.

The Senate also unanimously approved the nomination of Tara O’Toole, who was tapped to serve as an undersecretary in the Department of Homeland Security. O’Toole’s nomination had lingered on the executive calendar since July.