Senate Again Fails to Pass Unemployment Extension

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The Senate failed to pass a bill on Wednesday night to extend unemployment benefits and the closing date for home purchases that could qualify for the Homebuyer Tax Credit, although it later managed to pass the Homebuyer Tax Credit closing date extension separately.

The defeat followed three similar attempts to pass larger legislation extending unemployment benefits and about 50 expired and soon-to-expire individual and business tax breaks (see Senate Again Fails to Pass Tax Extenders Bill). Senate Democrats were unable to overcome a Republican-led filibuster.

Republicans argue that the bill would add $33 billion to the deficit and want the money to come out of unspent stimulus funds, while Democrats argue that the unemployment assistance should qualify as emergency spending. Approximately 1.7 million people will have lost their unemployment benefits by the end of this week without the extension.

The bill received a 58-38 vote, just shy of the 60 votes needed to overcome the filibuster. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., who had introduced the bill with Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., had to vote against the bill for procedural reasons in order to be able to re-introduce it later. Nebraska Democrat, Ben Nelson also opposed the bill. Two Republicans, Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, voted for the bill.

“As of this week, more than one million American workers, who have lost their jobs through no fault of their own, have stopped receiving the unemployment insurance they depend on to feed their families while they look for work,” said Baucus. “These are American workers in Montana and across the country who have worked hard for years and they want to work again, but they desperately need the support in this bill to survive while Congress works to help create more jobs.”

The Baucus-Reid legislation would retroactively reinstate federal unemployment insurance, so that Americans who lost their benefits when the program expired at the end of May could receive the support they need while they look for work. And the bill would extend federal unemployment insurance benefits, so Americans who lose their jobs through no fault of their own would continue to receive the benefits they depend on through November 2010.

The House passed a companion unemployment extension bill on Thursday, the same day that the late Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., lay in state in the Capitol. Byrd's one vote could have been enough to pass the bill in the Senate. The Senate is not expected to take up the legislation again, however, until it returns from its July 4 recess.

After the defeat, the Senate cleared for President Obama’s signature an extension on the Homebuyer Tax Credit. He is expected to sign the extension on Thursday. The bill extends the date by three months under which new homebuyers who are already under contract must close the sale to qualify for the credit. The closing date has been pushed back from July 1 to Sept. 30, 2010, so that more American homebuyers could benefit from this successful program. In many parts of the country, financing problems have forced many buyers to require extra time to close their home purchases.

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