Unemployment benefits clear Senate hurdle

The Senate today moved closer to restoring unemployment aid to millions who have been out of work for more than six months.

By a 60-40 vote, Democrats ended a Republican filibuster and moved toward a final vote on legislation that would extend unemployment benefits to nearly 2 1/2 million Americans. Republicans objected that the bill's costs would add to the federal deficit. For the last two months the legislation has been stalled in a partisan impasse. On Monday, President Barack Obama held a press conference in the White House rose garden to put pressure on Republicans.

The vote came moments after Carte Goodwin, a successor to West Virginia Democrat Robert Byrd, was sworn in and gave the majority the crucial 60th senator to cut off debate.

The bill would provide up to 99 weeks of unemployment benefits averaging $309 per week. After a final Senate vote, the House will take up the bill Wednesday. President Obama would then sign the bill into law, freeing $34 billion in aid.

**Both sides win**

It appears both side in the debate over extending unemployment benefits can claim victory following Tuesday's Senate vote.

Ahead of November's mid-term elections, Democrats can claim they've given the long-term unemployed a leg to stand on while at the same time administering a much needed shot of stimulus to the faltering economic recovery. Economists say unemployment assistance is typically spent quickly, providing a jolt that ripples through the economy.

Republicans meantime can say they tried to hold the line against runaway government spending that has resulted in a record trillion-dollar budget deficit. GOP leaders said they favored extending the benefits as long as they were offset by corresponding spending cuts.

Stephen Gregory contributed to this report.

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