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Unemployment benefits extension passes test vote in Senate

Congress is back from their Christmas break. Before they left they allowed emergency unemployment benefits to end on Dec. 28, for 1.3 million people. Now a bipartisan bill to extend those benefits passed a critical procedural vote. According to a January 7 article in USA Today, six Republicans joined with 54 members of the Senate Democratic Caucus to reach the 60 vote threshold to start consideration of bipartisan legislation sponsored by Sens. Jack Reed, D – R.I., and Dean Heller, R-Nev. This means they have agreed to start debating the bill. It will take another vote to actually move the bill forward.

Cost of about $25 billion to extend benefits

Each state has their own unemployment benefits, but in 2008 the recession battered the job market. Unemployment was high and jobs hard to find so Congress passed an emergency extension of jobless benefits paid for by the federal government. Since then, that extension has been renewed several times, but that came to an end on Dec. 28. To extend the program for another year, the Congressional Budget Office says the cost would be around $25 billion. For this reason Republicans want the Democrats to agree to cut the budget to find ways to pay for these benefits.

House Speaker John Boehner said on Tuesday that he told the White House a month ago that he is willing to extend jobless benefits, but any extension must be paid for and "include something to help put people back to work."

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell repeated that argument saying any extension of emergency unemployment benefits should be offset with spending cuts elsewhere. The 90-day extension would cost $6.5 billion.

"There is no excuse to pass unemployment insurance legislation without also finding ways to create good, stable, high-paying jobs — and also trying to find the money to pay for it. So what I'm saying is, let's support meaningful job creation measures, and let's find a way to pay for these UI benefits so we're not adding to an already unsustainable debt." -- McConnell via USA Today

Republicans willing to extend unemployment benefits

While a handful of Republicans think ending the extended unemployment benefits would persuade people to be more aggressive in hunting for a job, most Republicans are ready to extend benefits as long as cuts are made elsewhere to cover the costs. House Speaker John Boehner told the White House that a month ago.