WASHINGTON (CN) – The House of Representatives voted 272-152 Thursday to pass a bill that restores unemployment benefits for 2.5 million Americans. The bill passed by a 59-39 vote in the Senate Wednesday and will now go to President Obama’s desk for signature.
In the House vote, 31 Republicans voted with 241 Democrats to approve the measure, and 142 Republicans and 10 Democrats voted against it.
The bill will retroactively award unemployment benefits to the 2.5 million Americans whose benefits expired in late May and early June. The measure extends benefits through the end of November.
The bill underwent fierce debate in the Senate, where Republicans stalled the bill for weeks, saying they wanted its $34 billion cost to be offset before they added their support.
“We know that the majority can in fact pay for this,” said Rep. David Dreier, R-Calif. “And they of course want to paint us as being on the other side of those who are trying to makes ends meet … and to me it’s a failed argument.”
Republicans had proposed that stimulus funds be used to pay for the bill. Democrats argued that it was an emergency measure, accusing Republicans of departing with their traditional support of unemployment benefits.
“The economy cannot flourish and be entrepreneurial unless it knows that there is a safety net in case the economy comes down,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Thursday. “The Republicans are saying no to that. They have said no over and over again, and they are saying no today unless it is paid for. Again, while they still say: ‘We want tax cuts for the wealthiest.’ $700 billion for 20 times more than this bill for unemployment insurance.”
“Americans who are working day and night to get back on their feet and support their families in these tough economic times deserve more than obstruction and partisan game-playing that happens too often here in Washington,” Obama said.
The president has said that when the bill passed the House he would “quickly sign it into law.”