President Barack Obama responded by urging the Republican-led
House of Representatives to give the measure final approval so he
can sign it into law. But it was unclear if it would do so.
"The Senate just took action on a bipartisan bill" to renew
unemployment insurance, Obama said in a Twitter message. "It's up to
the House to follow suit."
The bill, passed by the Senate 59-38, had long seemed certain to die
in the House amid stiff Republican opposition. Pressure has mounted,
however, for the House to help the unemployed this election year.
Shortly after the Senate vote, seven House Republicans — many from
high unemployment regions or districts that are seen as competitive
in the November election — wrote party leadership, asking that a
House vote be held on the bill or on a similar measure.
In addition, the lead Republican sponsor of the Senate bill, Dean
Heller of Nevada, said he wants to meet with House Speaker John
Boehner and find a way to move the effort forward.
Boehner and other Republicans oppose the bill, saying it does not
meet their demands that it include job creation provisions. Boehner
has also called the measure "unworkable," citing concerns by state
But Boehner has not closed the door to some sort of help for the
unemployed, and backers of the legislation argue that any problems
with it on the state level can be fixed.
Boehner's press secretary, Michael Steel, said: "The speaker has
said since before Christmas that we are open to looking at extending
emergency UI (unemployment insurance) — as long as it is paid-for,
and does something to create more private-sector jobs."
Bill backers earlier resolved the demand that it be paid for by
offsetting the $10 billion cost of an extension with savings
[to top of second column]
The bill would restore jobless benefits for five months, retroactive
to last December when they began to expire for those who have been
out of work for at least six months.
The Emergency Unemployment Compensation program began in 2008. Under
it, people who lose their jobs typically receive state unemployment
benefits for 26 weeks. Then they are eligible for federal relief for
up to an additional 47 weeks.
Congress allowed funding for the program to expire in December with
lawmakers struggling since then to find a way to extend it for a
The seven House Republicans who wrote Republican leadership, asking for relief for the unemployed, include: Mike Grimm, Chris
Gibson and Peter King of New York; Jon Runyan, Christopher Smith and
Frank LoBiondo of New Jersey, and Joe Heck of Nevada.
(Reporting by Thomas Ferraro; editing by Sandra Maler and Lisa
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