Third time wasn’t the charm for unemployed

THIRD TIME WASN’T THE CHARM FOR UNEMPLOYED…. The Senate was almost allowed to vote up or down on extended unemployment benefits, but Democrats came one vote short of ending a Republican filibuster.

The Senate failed once again late Wednesday to advance a plan to restore jobless benefits for people out of work more than six months, leaving millions of unemployed workers in limbo until after the July 4 recess.

The measure fell one vote shy of the 60 needed to end a Republican filibuster. Sen. George V. Voinovich (R-Ohio) said he was prepared to provide that vote, but that Democrats had rejected his request to pay for at least half of the $34 billion measure with unspent funds from last year’s stimulus package.

Voinovich’s offer wasn’t exactly constructive — he was prepared to let the Senate vote, just so long as Democrats agreed to spend less on economic recovery. The fact that such an offer is both foolish and counter-productive seemed to elude the Ohio senator.

The final vote was 58 to 38 — yes, in our Senate, 38 trumps 58 — but it was actually a 59-vote majority. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) had to switch from yea to nea for procedural reasons.

To their credit, two Republicans, Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine, finally agreed to end the filibuster on jobless aid. Democrats, then, only needed one more vote, and hoped Sens. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) or Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) would come through. They refused.

The good news, if you could call it that, is that Democrats will likely get a 60th vote once the late Sen. Robert Byrd’s (D-W.Va.) vacancy is filled. But with the caucus still one vote short, the leadership had no choice but to adjourn last night. The Senate will reconvene a week from Monday, on July 12.

In the meantime, as of tomorrow, 1.3 million jobless Americans will have lost their benefits. By the time Byrd’s replacement is named, the total will be 2 million.

When was the last time Congress allowed benefits to expire with unemployment rates this high? It’s simply never happened.