WASHINGTON (CN) – Senate Republicans delayed the final vote on a bill that would extend unemployment benefits for millions of Americans, pushing the vote to Wednesday evening or Thursday. “Work with us,” Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., urged her Republican colleagues. “Where’s your heart?”
“This is a history-making day,” Boxer said on the Senate floor Wednesday afternoon. “This is the first time we’ve have a stand-off on this issue.” She noted that Republicans supported extending jobless benefits in 2001 and 2003. “We’ve always had bipartisan for support for extending unemployment compensation,” she said. “I don’t know where this is coming from.”
Republicans have said they refuse to support the bill until its costs are offset, citing the $13 trillion national debt.
Unemployment benefits for 2.5 million Americans expired June 4.
“There isn’t anybody on our side of the aisle that doesn’t think we should allow extension of unemployment benefits,” said Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla.
Coburn said the issue isn’t about Republican delay, but about paying for the bill. “We do want them to have unemployment,” Coburn said. “We’re thinking about the habits of a Congress that continually … borrows against the prosperity and well-being of the generations that follow us,” he said.
Coburn said discretionary government spending in the past two years has increased by nearly 20 percent.
“I think we should treat this like this is the emergency that it is,” said Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa. “Millions of people and their lives are at stake here. People are hurting and Republicans are lecturing us on fiscal economy.”
Casey said that not passing the bill would “injure or short-circuit the recovery,” because government checks would boost consumer spending.
“Instead of passing the bill yesterday as common decency would allow, the Republicans are making them wait another 30 hours,” Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., said. “In the midst of telling us how serious the national debt is, these folks want to give tax breaks to millionaires,” he said, referring to a proposed amendment that would repeal the estate tax.
“Even though the other side knows we have the votes,” Boxer said, “they’re stalling and stalling and stalling. They’re here to delay.”
The Senate voted 60-40 Tuesday to advance the bill that would extend unemployment benefits through November.
Before Tuesday’s vote, Senate Republicans had blocked the bill from moving forward three times — June 17, 24 and 30 — keeping majority Democrats from reaching the 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster and close debate on the bill.
If the bill passes, it will then go to the House of Representatives.