Over one million unemployed Americans are getting closer to receiving their benefits following a key move in the United States Senate.
On Tuesday morning, a measure to reinstate the expired unemployment benefits for 1.3 million passed through the Senate with 60 votes as six Republicans joined with Democrats to make it possible. Another measure must pass through the Senate with 60 votes, which is expected, before it moves over to the Republican controlled House of Representatives. It's unknown whether House Republicans, including their austerity friendly Tea Party Caucus, will agree to extend the unemployment benefits. Republicans have made it clear that they wouldn't extend the benefits unless there is a way to pay for the $6.5 billion cost.
While Republicans are worried about the cost of extending unemployment benefits, studies show that the United States economy is losing between $600 million and $1 billion a week. Extending unemployment benefits is essential and though the unemployment rate is at a 5 year low, 7 percent, over 4 million Americans are considered "long term unemployed," out of work for six months or longer. Some Republicans have been helpful, such as Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) who stated "Helping those in need should not be a partisan issue...For these benefits to simply vanish without giving families the time to plan or figure out alternatives to help them get by to me is just not right." However, other conservatives, like Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, believes that speaking about unemployment benefits is just a Democratic distraction away from the Affordable Care Act, or "Obamacare."
President Obama has been pushing for the extension of the benefits since before they expired on December 28th, and it looks like it has taken a small step towards getting done.