Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Senate breaks logjam to restore jobless aid

Senate breaks logjam to restore jobless aid
Andy Sullivan
Mar 3, 2010

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Highway money and jobless funds were set to flow again after the Senate ended a standoff on Tuesday that disrupted benefits for hundreds of thousands of unemployed Americans.

The Senate voted 78-19 to end a logjam that had worsened the plight of the jobless and thrown thousands out of work as lawmakers bickered over the cost of programs designed to help millions of Americans weather the worst economic downturn in 70 years.

President Barack Obama was expected to sign the measure quickly into law.

The programs expired on Sunday after Republican Senator Jim Bunning prevented the Senate from renewing them on the grounds they would add to the country's $12.4 trillion debt.

As a result, 400,000 jobless people faced the imminent loss of weekly checks that help them pay the bills while they look for work, as well as subsidies that help them pay for health insurance.

Construction projects across the country shut down after 2,000 federal workers were furloughed, while doctors faced a 21 percent pay cut for patients they see under the Medicare health insurance program for the elderly.

"During these difficult economic times, supporting American workers, their families and our small businesses must be everyone's focus," Obama said in a statement released by the White House. "... I'm grateful to the members of the Senate on both sides of the aisle who worked to end this roadblock to relief for America's working families."

In news conferences and floor statements, Democrats said Bunning and his fellow Republicans had taken their opposition to Democratic initiatives to a new extreme.

"Today we have a clear-cut example to show the American people what's wrong with Washington," said Democratic Senator Patty Murray...

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