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Unemployment Extension Bill Advances Narrowly in Senate

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Updated 2 p.m. | The Senate’s deal to revive an extension of unemployment benefits passed a key procedural test — barely — Wednesday morning.  

Senators voted to limit debate 61-38 — and thus get beyond any filibuster threats — on the five-month deal hashed out by a coalition led by Sens. Jack Reed, D-R.I., and Dean Heller, R -Nev.  

Six Republicans joined with all of the Democrats — Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, Susan Collins of Maine, Dean Heller of Nevada, Mark S. Kirk of Illinois, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Rob Portman of Ohio. Portman and Kirk had voted to filibuster a deal in February.  Four Republicans who had voted to bring the bill to the floor last week switched and voted to filibuster the deal Wednesday: Dan Coats of Indiana, Bob Corker of Tennessee, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin and Patrick J. Toomey of Pennsylvania.  

The procedural vote required the agreement of 60 senators.  

The agreement has faced opposition from many Republicans, with particular criticism of Majority Leader Harry Reid’s use of what have become customary procedural maneuvers to preclude the offering of amendments. The GOP proposals tend to fall under the broad umbrella of what they consider to be job-creating measures, ranging from new restrictions on Obama administration rulemaking to providing for approval of the Keystone XL pipeline project.  

Reid on Monday rejected a unanimous consent request from Sen. David Vitter, R-La., to add an amendment to the bill that would eliminate eligibility for receiving both UI benefits and Social Security Disability Insurance payments, which Vitter characterized as “double dipping.”  

Reid said he believes that GOP amendments are designed to kill the compromise.  

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., wants to offer an amendment that would block carbon emissions rules for coal-fired power plants.  

McConnell also introduced a national right-to-work bill he said he’d like to offer as an amendment. The bill would bar employers from requiring employees to pay fees to a union as part of a contract agreement with a labor organization.  

“It’s just such a common-sense, pro-worker proposal,” McConnell said. “According to one survey, about 80% of unionized workers agreed that employees should be able to decide whether or not joining a union is right for them”  

Under the rules, a vote to adopt the jobless benefits amendment authored by Reed and Heller will take place automatically on Thursday afternoon, followed by another vote to limit debate on the legislation itself. Final passage would follow, but now appears assured.  

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Follow our coverage of the unemployment insurance extension proposals:

Unhappy on Unemployment Extension, GOP Considers Blocking Minimum Wage, Pay Equity Debate

Unemployment Extension: How Did Your Senator Vote?

Unemployment Extension Vote Not Worrying House Republicans

Boehner Still Cool to Senate Unemployment Extension Bill

Unemployment Extension Fight Pits Portman Against Boehner

Doctors Win, Jobless Lose: The GOP Confronts New Perception Problem

Sarah Chacko contributed to this report.

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