WASHINGTON (CN) – The Senate voted 60-40 Tuesday to extend unemployment benefits for millions of Americans whose benefits expired. Senate Democrats secured the 60 votes needed to move the bill to final vote after swearing in the new senator from West Virginia, Carte Goodwin.
Senate Republicans blocked the bill from moving forward three times – on June 17, 24 and 30 – keeping majority Democrats from reaching the 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster and close debate on the bill.
Goodwin replaced the late Sen. Robert Byrd, the Senate’s longest-serving member, who died June 28.
If passed, the American Jobs and Closing Tax Loopholes Act of 2010 will extend through November benefits for the long-term jobless, those who have been without work for more than six months. Unemployment benefits for 2.5 million Americans were expired as of June 4.
Close to half of Americans now unemployed have been without jobs for more than 6 months.
Two Republican senators voted with majority Democrats to advance the bill: Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine.
One Democrat, Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska, opposed the bill.
Republicans had said they wanted the costs of the bill to be offset before they voted to approve it. Before the vote, Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell said on the Senate floor national debt is “spinning completely out of control.”
McConnell said Democrats were not taking the national debt seriously, accusing the party of “fiscal recklessness.”
Democrats harangued Republicans for extending billions in tax breaks to wealthy Americans while failing to help those that needed it most. “They don’t want a handout,” Obama said in a Rose Garden press conference Monday. “They desperately want to work.”
“I can’t understand why anyone would not allow these people who have been unemployed for long periods of time to get these people some money so they can pay their rent, make their car payment…It helps our economy,” Senate majority leader Harry Reid of Nevada said Monday.
If the bill passes, it will go to the House of Representatives.