The legislative slog to approve an unemployment benefit extension continues. Last night, the Senate voted by an 85-2 margin for cloture on H.R. 3548. Most reporters (myself
included) thought that motion limited debate for good, ensuring that a
final vote on the bill could ...
The legislative slog to approve an unemployment benefit extension continues. Last night, the Senate voted by an 85-2 margin for cloture on H.R. 3548. Most reporters (myself included) thought that motion limited debate for good, ensuring that a final vote on the bill could be held as early as tomorrow morning. But Republicans, who are bent on thwarting the measure, still have more one arrow in their quiver, according to Congress Daily's Peter Cohn (subscription required):
Monday's vote cut off debate on the substitute amendment from Majority Leader Reid and Finance Chairman Max Baucus adding the tax breaks to the underlying unemployment insurance bill. Another cloture vote, this time on the amended bill, could occur as late as 11:40 tonight unless Republicans yield back time or agree to vitiate cloture. Even if cloture is invoked, Republicans would have up to another 30 hours to debate, pushing final passage off until Thursday.
What's worse, the House was ready to vote on the more generous Senate version as soon passed. But the delay means that the unemployment bill must now compete for floor space with health care legislation. It's not yet clear when they will squeeze it in.
To be clear, this is a bill that has broad bipartisan support. It passed the House and both Senate cloture votes with overwhelmingly majorities. But because of the upper chamber's ridiculous supermajority requirement and a goofy procedural rule intended to save senators from actually performing filibusters, a small band of Republicans can delay legislation at will. As a result, more desperate Americans will lose out on crucial resources in this time of need.
We'll keep track of all the legislative details as they are leaked.
UPDATE (2:27 pm): Curious how many Americans have exhausted their benefits since the GOP put the breaks on H.R. 3548? The Senate Democrats have a ticker on their website. As of 2:25 pm on Tuesday, the total is about 186,000.
UPDATE (6:03 p.m.): The Senate just adjourned today, with Sen. Dick Durbin confirming that the chamber will hold a third (and hopefully final) cloture vote at 12:15 p.m. ET tomorrow. He had some more harsh words for his Republican colleagues:
DURBIN: How will we ever explain to the people who are struggling from day to day to feed their families while they look for a job why it took us 27, 28 days to extend unemployment benefits in the United States Senate? … I'm glad that it appears we're going to finally move to it tomorrow -- four weeks after we started. I don't understand how you can be for family values and not stand up for these families when they're facing the toughest challenges of their lives.