The Senate on Tuesday barely passed an extension of federal unemployment benefits that would benefit out-of-work veterans, but long odds remain for approval in the Republican-controlled House.
According to the Veterans Administration and Labor Department, some 100,000 veterans are jobless.
Senators voted 60-37 for a procedural motion to advance the bill that would extend emergency benefits for another three months at a cost of $6.4 billion. All Democrats present supported the proposal, but they needed six Republicans – and got them: Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, Dan Coats of Indiana, Susan Collins of Maine, Dean Heller of Nevada, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Rob Portman of Ohio.
The measure is generally viewed with disapproval by House Republicans, especially since Democrats have not offset the $6.4 billion cost with spending cuts elsewhere. The White House is supporting the extension as the economy continues to recover.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., had struggled to find the necessary votes for passage, after the winter weather blast kept 17 senators from being able to return to Washington on Monday for the vote. Reid then rescheduled it for Tuesday morning.
Reid reminded senators that federal unemployment benefits had already expired last month, leaving many Americans helpless.
"Fortunately, Americans looking for work have been able to rely on unemployment insurance to get them through tough times," he said. "But for 1.3 million Americans … that safety net has been yanked away. For many American families, these benefits were the difference between making ends meet and going hungry or becoming homeless."