WASHINGTON (CN) – The Senate voted 59-39 Wednesday to pass a bill that restores unemployment benefits for 2.5 million Americans. The bill goes to the House of Representatives for a vote Thursday.
“Tonight, the United States Senate finally overcame weeks of parliamentary roadblocks by a partisan minority,” President Obama said in a statement late Wednesday, “and voted to restore desperately needed unemployment insurance assistance to two and a half million Americans who lost their jobs in the recession.”
Republican Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe, both of Maine, voted for the bill.
The bill would enable the 2.5 million Americans whose unemployment benefits expired in late May and early June to receive government support through the end of November.
A majority of Senate Republicans fought fiercely against the measure for several weeks, saying they refused to support the bill until its $34 billion cost was offset.
Republicans asked that the money to pay for the bill come out of economic stimulus funds, citing the $13 trillion national debt, which Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said was “spinning completely out of control.”
“We do want them to have unemployment,” Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Ala., said of the long-term jobless. “We’re thinking about the habits of a Congress that continually … borrows against the prosperity and wellbeing of the generations that follow us.”
Democrats accused Republicans of departing with their traditional support of emergency benefits.
“This is the first time we’ve have a stand-off on this issue,” Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., said before the vote Wednesday. “We’ve always had bipartisan for support for extending unemployment compensation. … I don’t know where this is coming from.”
“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. “I thank the members of the Senate who stood on the side of these working families today, and urge members of the House to pass this extension so I can quickly sign it into law.”