Unemployment-benefits bill stalls in Senate as GOP rejects revised plan
Senate Democrats were ready to throw in the towel late Wednesday on a months-long effort to deliver fresh aid to states and extend benefits to unemployed workers, saying Republicans had rejected their latest offer to pare down the size and cost of the package.
Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) set the procedural wheels in motion for a climactic vote on the legislation as soon as Thursday. Despite days of talks, a senior Democratic aide said Reid had been unable to persuade any Republicans to support the measure, leaving him at least two votes short of the 60 needed to overcome a GOP filibuster.
Democrats control 59 seats in the Senate but expect to lose the vote of Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), meaning they would need the votes of at least two Republicans to cross the 60-vote threshold.
The package includes tax breaks for businesses and individuals, as well as emergency support for millions of jobless workers who have exhausted their regular 26-week state benefits. Unless Congress acts, an estimated 900,000 people will have their checks cut off by the end of the month.
Democrats were prepared to slash another provision, reducing proposed aid to state governments and covering the cost of the aid with unexpended funds from last year's $862 billion stimulus package, aides said. But those negotiations produced no consensus and appeared to collapse amid concerns that the package would add to already record budget deficits.
-- Lori Montgomery