CAPITOL HILL (TRNS) — The Senate tried and failed again today to extend unemployment benefits for an estimated one point seven million Americans who have been out of work for six months or longer.
By a vote of 58-40 Senate Democrats failed to muster the 60 votes needed to overcome a Republican filibuster. A second vote immediately afterwards also failed 55-43. The votes were the fourth and fifth that the Senate has taken this year to begin debate on the measure.
Before the vote, top Democrats had tried to rally GOP support by arguing that the benefits are vital to helping unemployed Americans live their lives. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), for example, spoke about meeting a 57-year-old Nevada woman who is couch-surfing because she can’t afford to pay her rent.
“She’s been going from friend to friend to sleep on their couch,” Reid said. “She said, ‘How do you think it makes me feel?'”
Democrats also said that extending the benefits would make sense financially, as recipients would the money right back into the economy. But Republicans weren’t satisfied with the way the legislation would’ve been paid for. It’s offsets would have been derived from verifying that recipients earned less than $1 million the previous year, and allowing businesses to contribute fewer dollars toward employee pensions. Theoretically, the higher profits would have translated into more tax revenue for the federal government.
Four Republicans — Kelly Ayotte (N.H.), Susan Collins (Maine), Dean Heller (Nev.) and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) — voted in favor the bill, which would’ve restored unemployment benefits for three months at a price tag of $6.4 billion. Reid voted no in order to keep his right to re-introduce the legislation at a later point in time.