The Senate approved an extension on employment benefits on Wednesday evening, with the House poised to pass the extension on Thursday.

President Obama has said he would sign the extension into law as soon as it arrives on his desk. It will extend unemployment benefits through the end of November. The number of jobless claims unexpectedly rose last week to 464,000, or 37,000 more than the previous week, the Labor Department reported on Thursday.

Senate Democrats were forced to wait 30 hours after they managed to overcome a Republican filibuster on Tuesday before they could pass the $33.9 billion bill by a 59-39 vote. West Virginia’s newest senator, Carte Goodwin, who is filling in for the late Sen. Robert Byrd, was sworn in to the Senate on Tuesday and helped break the logjam (see Senate Overcomes Unemployment Extension Filibuster). Two Republican senators, Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine, crossed party lines and voted for the bill.

During the run-up to the final vote, Republicans introduced a number of amendments, including one by Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., to permanently repeal the estate tax. However, the amendment was defeated by a vote of 39-59, mostly along party lines, but with two Democrats, Blanche Lincoln, D-Ark., and Ben Nelson, D-Neb., voting in favor of the repeal. Three Republicans - Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine and George Voinovich of Ohio - opposed it.


Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., hailed Senate passage of the unemployment extension bill. “This bill restores peace of mind for workers in Montana and across the nation, by giving them the support they need to keep food on the table and a roof overhead as they look for work,” he said in a statement. “These folks have worked hard all their lives and they will work again, but they need the support this bill provides to make it through the toughest job market we’ve seen in decades.”

Baucus introduced the legislation with Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., on June 29 as a substitute amendment to the American Jobs and Closing Tax Loopholes Act.  The Reid-Baucus substitute amendment passed the Senate, after it was amended to remove a provision extending the closing date for homebuyers to qualify for the Homebuyer Tax Credit, which passed the Senate previously in other legislation.  The unemployment insurance extension will now be sent to the House of Representatives for its consideration.

The legislation will retroactively reinstate federal unemployment insurance benefits, so that Americans who lost their benefits when the program expired on June 2, 2010, can receive the support they need while they look for work. 

The bill will extend federal unemployment insurance benefits through Nov. 30, 2010, so Americans who lose their jobs through no fault of their own can continue to receive benefits. The Emergency Unemployment Compensation program phased-out at the end of May 2010. This program provides (depending on a State’s unemployment rate) up to 53 weeks of extended benefits. The bill would extend the EUC program through November 2010 and is retroactive.

The bill also extends the Extended Benefits program, providing 100 percent federal funding for the EB program, which phased out at the end of May 2010. This program provides up to an additional 13 to 20 weeks of benefits in certain states (i.e., 13 weeks for states at or above 6.5 percent unemployment and another 7 weeks for states at or above 8 percent unemployment). The bill would extend full funding for the EB program through November 2010.

The bill also eliminates the penalty for part-time employment in the Emergency Unemployment Compensation program. The legislation coordinates EUC benefits with regular benefits by providing states with a number of options to allow EUC claimants to remain eligible for the EUC program when they become newly entitled to state unemployment compensation if switching to state benefits would reduce their weekly unemployment insurance check by at least $100 or 25 percent.

The three provisions together are estimated to cost $33.9 billion over 10 years.

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