US Senate to break deadlock, extend jobless benefits

* Benefits expired in May due to partisan deadlock

* Latest skirmish in stimulus vs. deficit reduction debate

* Carte Goodwin to give Democrats the final vote they need

By Andy Sullivan

WASHINGTON, July 20 (BestGrowthStock) – The U.S. Senate is expected
to approve an extension of long-term unemployment benefits on
Tuesday, bringing relief to roughly 2 million jobless Americans
who have seen help evaporate due to congressional inaction.

With congressional elections looming in November, the
Senate has been locked in a partisan standoff over how to pay
for extending benefits for those who have been out of work the
longest.

Democrats, eager to show voters they are doing all they can
to bring down the 9.5 percent unemployment rate, tried to
extend the benefits when they expired at the end of May.

But they were blocked by Republicans who said the $34
billion price tag should be covered by cuts elsewhere rather
than more borrowing that would add to a trillion-dollar budget
deficit.

Nearly half of the 15 million Americans out of work have
been jobless for more than six months, the highest level of
long-term unemployment since the government began keeping track
in the 1940s. Nearly a quarter of the unemployed have been out
of work for more than a year.

Democrats are expected to break the deadlock shortly after
the new senator from West Virginia, Carte Goodwin, is sworn in,
giving them the 60th vote they need to overcome a Republican
procedural roadblock in the 100-seat chamber. Goodwin succeeds
Robert Byrd, who died last month after 57 years in Congress.

A final vote could come later in the day. The House of
Representatives is expected to approve the measure later in the
week before sending it to President Barack Obama to sign into
law.

“It’s time to stop holding workers laid off in this
recession hostage to Washington politics,” Obama said on
Monday.

The fight over jobless benefits is the latest skirmish in a
broader debate over whether Congress should spend further to
stimulate the economy or start making the painful cuts needed
to bring down record budget deficits, which hit 9.9 percent of
GDP in the last fiscal year.

Economists think unemployment benefits generally get a good
bang for the buck because people who are out of work and
scrambling to make ends meet are likely to quickly spend that
money, putting it into the economy and stimulating growth.

Though Democrats likely will be able to claim victory on
this front, much of the rest of their “jobs agenda” in 2010 has
been sidelined. Due to unified Republican opposition and doubts
within their own ranks, Democrats have been unable to secure
more money to avert teacher layoffs, launch new construction
projects and help states pay their health-care bills.

Further, the public seems little inclined to give them
credit for the job-creation measures they have already passed.

Last year’s $862 billion stimulus package has saved more
than 3 million jobs, according to the nonpartisan Congressional
Budget Office, but most people think it has had no impact on
the economy or actually made it worse, according to a recent
CBS News poll.

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(Editing by Vicki Allen)

US Senate to break deadlock, extend jobless benefits