The Senate rejected Wednesday -- for the fourth time -- a bill that would have reauthorized extended benefits for the long-term unemployed, by a vote of 58 to 38. Democrats will not make another effort to break the Republican filibuster before adjourning for the July 4 recess.
By the time lawmakers return to Washington, more than 2 million people who've been out of work for longer than six months will have missed checks they would have received if they'd been laid off closer to the beginning of the recession.
Only two Republicans, Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine, crossed the aisle to support the measure. That gave Democrats 59 of the 60 votes they needed to break the GOP filibuster, but without the late Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.), Nebraska Democrat Ben Nelson's nay vote was enough to kill the bill.
(The final tally shows only 58 yea votes due to arcane rules of Senate procedure, which require Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to vote against the bill in order to allow for another vote on it in the future.)
"We will vote on this measure again once there is a replacement named for the late Senator Byrd," Reid said in a statement after the vote. "In the meantime, I sincerely hope that Republicans will finally listen to the millions of unemployed Americans who need this assistance to support their families in these tough times. These Americans and millions more demand that Republicans stop filibustering support for unemployed workers."
Already, more than 1.2 million people out of work for longer than six months have missed checks since federally-funded extended benefits lapsed at the beginning of June.
"Senators had a chance to put election year posturing aside and one too few rose to that challenge," said Judy Conti, a lobbyist for the National Employment Law Project. "It's a sad night, especially for the over one million workers and their families who will have little cause to celebrate this holiday weekend. It is a disgrace and an absolute slap in the face to basic human decency."
I'm Senantor BenNelson of Nebraska and I voted
against extending unemployment benefits
as there is nothing in it for me..