Senate Preparing to Knuckle Up Over Jobless Benefit Extension

It will be one of the first orders of business upon return from Spring Break. That and a trigonometry exam.

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Upon returning from the spring recess, the Senate will start name-calling and such over the extension of jobless benefits

Before the break, congressional Democrats and Republicans were bickering over how to pay for the program, which can extend assistance payments for months — more if the recipient lives in one of the hardest-hit states. And so lawmakers left town without acting on a proposal that would have allowed newly eligible Americans access to the pay and health care benefits.

The result: On Monday, the government stopped accepting applications for the assistance.

Some advocacy groups estimated that this week, about 200,000 people a day have exhausted their standard state unemployment benefits. These are people who would have been eligible to apply for the federal aid, had the program been extended.

Republicans such as Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn, who threatened to use a filibuster to block action on the extension measure, have accused Democrats of using the impasse as a public relations stunt.

Democrats have said much the same about their across-the-aisle colleagues.

Indeed, the issue of where to find the $10 billion needed to keep the federal program for the chronically unemployed going for new applicants has generated emotional rhetoric. Not all of it has been accurate.