Republicans: Bill may lead to deficit

Last updated 10:09 08/01/2014

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Legislation to renew jobless benefits for America's long-term unemployed has cleared an initial Senate hurdle, but the bill's fate remains in doubt.

The vote on Tuesday was 60-37 to limit debate on the legislation.

But Republicans said they would try to change the measure so the $6.4 billion ($7.74b) cost would not add to deficits - a step that Democrats have so far rejected.

As the 2014 midterm election year begins, the White House has made it a major issue to renew the jobless benefits that lapsed last month for an estimated 1.3 million people.

President Barack Obama was expected to speak on Tuesday morning.

The three-month extension of benefits is part of a Democratic program ahead of the November election in which control of Congress is at stake.

Other issues for Democrats include raising the minimum wage, closing tax loopholes on the wealthy and corporations, and enacting other measures designed to demonstrate sympathy with those who suffered during the worst recession in decades.

As drafted, the bill would restore between 14 weeks and 47 weeks of benefits averaging US$256 weekly.

Without action by Congress, thousands more each week would feel the impact as their state-funded benefits expire, generally after 26 weeks.

Senator Jack Reed said many affected are middle-class, middle-aged people who never thought they would wind up in the situation of long-term unemployment.

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- AP

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