UPDATE 2-U.S. Senate votes to restore lapsed jobless aid

* Jobless aid expiration affected 200,000 people

* Three Republicans vote with Democrats in favor

* Benefits extension would apply retroactively

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By Andy Sullivan

WASHINGTON, April 15 (BestGrowthStock) – The U.S. Senate on
Thursday voted to restore jobless benefits for hundreds of
thousands of Americans who had lost them during a partisan
standoff over spending.

The 59 to 38 vote would restore lapsed jobless aid and
healthcare subsidies for those thrown out of work by the worst
recession in 70 years. The House of Representatives is expected
to quickly approve the measure for President Barack Obama to
sign into law.

With the unemployment rate at 9.7 percent, some 6.1 million
Americans rely on jobless benefits to help them pay the bills
as they look for work.

Those benefits, which average roughly $300 per week,
expired for more than 200,000 Americans on April 5 after
Republican Senator Tom Coburn blocked a vote shortly before
Congress left town on a two-week break.

The standoff also has disrupted a federal flood-insurance
program, which has held up 1,400 home sales each day in
flood-prone areas and slashed emergency loans to small
businesses, Democrats said.

COBRA health-insurance subsidies for the unemployed and
payments to doctors under the Medicare health program have also
been disrupted.

REPUBLICAN OBJECTIONS

Coburn and other Republicans argued that Congress should
find a way to pay for the program rather than letting it add to
a budget deficit that could hit a record $1.5 trillion this
fiscal year.

The Senate voted down Coburn’s proposal to redirect $20
billion from other government programs.

Democrats said jobless aid has always been considered
emergency spending during times of high unemployment.

Three Republicans voted with the Democrats on the final
vote.

Jobless benefits normally expire after six months but
Congress has extended the program several times during a slump
marked by record levels of long-term joblessness.

The bill passed by the Senate would extend benefits through
June 2 and apply retroactively to those who were cut off last
week. It would cost $18.2 billion, according to the nonpartisan
Congressional Budget Office.

Democrats have been extending the program on a
month-to-month basis as they work on a longer-term fix.

That has given Senate Republicans plenty of opportunity for
disruption.

Republican objections forced the Senate to spend most of
the week on a measure that had cleared the House of
Representatives in a matter of seconds. Democrats can expect to
face similar delays on other spending measures that are not
offset with spending cuts elsewhere, Coburn said.

The debate over spending is likely to resurface on a
regular basis as the November congressional elections
approach.

Republicans have pointed to record deficits and last year’s
$863 billion economic-stimulus package to paint Democrats as
reckless spenders unconcerned with the country’s mounting
debt.

Democrats say the country’s dire fiscal situation can be
traced in large part to tax cuts, wars and an expansion of
Medicare that were enacted when Republicans were in control.
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(Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

UPDATE 2-U.S. Senate votes to restore lapsed jobless aid