Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid plans to hold a procedural vote on extending unemployment benefits next Tuesday and a vote on the financial reform bill this Thursday.

Reid blamed a Republican filibuster for preventing approximately 2.1 million people from receiving unemployment assistance. The Senate tried and failed four times to pass an extension on unemployment benefits before leaving for its July 4 holiday break. Earlier this month, the House managed to pass an extension through the end of November (see House Passes Unemployment Extension).

Republicans say the extension would add about $33 billion to the budget deficit and argue it should be paid with unused stimulus funds, while Democrats contend the funds should be considered emergency spending. The filibusters have left Democrats frustrated and blaming Republicans for using the issue for political advantage in the midterm elections.

“They’re betting on failure,” said Reid. “They think the worse the economy is come, the better they’re going to do electionwise.”

Republicans counter that the unemployment assistance needs to be paid for. “The only thing Republicans have opposed in this debate are job-killing taxes and adding to the national debt,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ken., in June. “We’ve offered ways of paying for these programs, and we’ve been eager to approve them. What we’re not willing to do is use worthwhile programs as an excuse to burden our children and our grandchildren with an even bigger national debt than we’ve already got."

House and Senate Democrats highlighted the unemployment issue during press conferences on Wednesday in Washington. House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Sander Levin, D-Mich., appeared with several fellow committee Democrats at a press conference, along with two unemployed workers. "This is a national emergency," he said.


However, Reid is counting on three Republicans to vote for passage of the financial regulatory reform bill. Scott Brown of Massachusetts and Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine have announced that they plan to vote to pass the bill.

Collins and Snowe have reportedly agreed to vote for a revised unemployment extension. Reid said that West Virginia Governor Joe Manchin plans to name an interim replacement for the late Sen. Robert Byrd this weekend, which should provide a 60th vote when the new senator joins the chamber.

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