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Senate fails to advance jobless benefits bill

By Tami Luhby, senior writer


NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- The Senate failed Tuesday to advance a bill that would have extended the deadline to file for federal unemployment insurance through next year.

Democrats sought to pass the $56.4 billion measure through unanimous consent, but Sen. Scott Brown, Republican of Massachusetts, objected, saying the extension should be paid for by rescinding unobligated discretionary funding.

The action in the Senate was largely political gamesmanship, with Democrats striving to appeal to unemployed voters as Republicans maintained their anti-deficit spending stance. Lawmakers in the House put on a similar show earlier this month.

Caught in the middle are 2 million jobless Americans who will run out of benefits in December if Congress doesn't act. For many, the last unemployment check is already in the mail.

The deadline to file for extended unemployment benefits is Nov. 30. These federal jobless payments, which last up to 73 weeks, kick in after the state-funded 26 weeks of coverage expire. These federal benefits are divided into tiers, and the jobless must apply each time they move into a new tier.

Congress has extended the deadline to file those applications four times in the past year. The last jobless benefits extension -- which lasted six months and cost $34 billion -- faced a lot of opposition on deficit-conscious Capitol Hill before it finally passed in mid-July.

Roughly 14.8 million Americans are unemployed, with about 6.2 million of them out of work for at least 27 weeks. About 8.5 million people are collecting unemployment insurance.

The jobless have collected $319 billion in unemployment benefits over the past three years, with the federal government footing $109 billion of the bill.

Senate Democratic leaders said they will continue working to pass the extension. It might be attached to a bill extending the Bush tax cuts, experts said. To top of page

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