Senate Democrats broke a Republican filibuster of unemployment benefits on Monday evening, voting 60-34 to end debate and move toward a final vote on a package of bills that also includes health benefits and flood insurance extensions.
With the main procedural hurdle cleared, the Senate can vote on final passage for the package after 30 hours of debate have passed. A handful of moderate Republicans, led by Scott Brown of Massachusetts, Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine and George Voinovich of Ohio broke with their party to give Democrats the deciding margin.
But Collins warned that Democrats can’t keep passing temporary extensions of jobless benefits – and she might not vote for final passage of the bill even though she helped break the filibuster Monday evening.
“We’re not getting anywhere,” Collins said. “We’re just passing short-term extension after short-term extension. I am beginning to think that this is a strategy that the Democrats have to never pay for any extension, no matter what the length is, by continuing to do very short-term bills.”
This package of bills has bedeviled Democrats for two months now – first it was filibustered by Sen. Jim Bunning (R-Ky.) back in February, then it was blocked by Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) last month. As a result of the impasse, unemployment insurance expired over the spring recess of the past two weeks.
A tentative deal
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