Senate fails to move on jobless benefits extension


WASHINGTON — The U.S. Senate on Thursday could not overcome a procedural hurdle that has kept them from voting on a three-month extension of jobless benefits for the long-term unemployed.

Proponents fell a single vote shy of the 60 required to move the legislation forward. U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., voted in favor. Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark., against it.

About 1.7 million Americans have lost long-term benefits since the emergency program expired at the start of the year.

Congress first offered the program in 2008 to help out-of-work Americans through the recession, providing between 14 and 47 weeks of federal jobless aid to people who exhausted their state unemployment benefits.

The debate has focused largely around how to pay the estimated $6 billion cost of extending the benefit. Proponents suggested a change to corporate pensions as an offset but opponents criticized it as an accounting gimmick.

Senate Democrats were united in supporting the legislation but only a handful of Republicans have joined them.

Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., said after the vote that he would continue to work to advance the legislation.

“We will keep negotiating with colleagues on both sides of the aisle to reach a compromise that will secure these benefits for those who need them,” he said.