Senate Democrats achieved their goal of reaching 60 votes to invoke cloture on a bill to extend unemployment benefits through the end of November, ending a Republican filibuster.

The 60th vote came on Tuesday afternoon only minutes after Carte Goodwin, the interim successor to the late Sen. Robert Byrd of West Virginia, was sworn in to office. Senate Democrats plan to hold another vote on Wednesday to formally pass the bill, but they need only 51 votes to do that. The bill attracted votes from two Republican senators, Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine, while one Democrat, Ben Nelson of Nebraska, voted against it.

The unemployment extension failed to pass on at least three earlier attempts over Republican objections that the $33 billion cost of the extension either come out of unused stimulus funds or be offset with spending cuts. President Obama blamed Republicans for blocking the extension on Monday during a press conference with three unemployed workers. “It’s time to stop holding workers laid off in this recession hostage to Washington politics,” he said.  “It’s time to do what’s right — not for the next election but for the middle class.” (see Obama Pushes for Vote on Unemployment Extension). Without the extension, an estimated 2.5 million people have been cut off from their benefits.

“As of this week, more than 2.5 million out-of-work Americans have stopped receiving unemployment insurance benefits, because Congress has failed to enact this bill,” said Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., during a floor statement prior to the vote. “That’s more than 2.5 million people who are not getting a paycheck to pay the bills. And that’s more than 2.5 million Americans who are not getting any help from unemployment insurance to tide them over. These 2.5 million Americans are trying to get work. But there are still five people looking for work for every job opening. They need help until they can find that job.”

The House voted to pass the unemployment extension earlier this month, but will need to vote on the Senate’s latest version of the bill on Wednesday (see House Passes Unemployment Extension). It is expected to reach President Obama’s desk and be signed into law by the end of the week.

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