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Single vote holds up Senate jobs bill (Kentucky Republican Jim Bunning)

Posted: Feb. 27, 2010

Single vote holds up Senate jobs bill

Emergency 30-day extension missed




WASHINGTON — The Senate left town Friday without passing legislation to extend jobless benefits or payments for unemployed workers’ insurance under the COBRA program, the measure being held up by a single vote — Kentucky Republican Jim Bunning.

It means Sunday’s deadline will pass without the emergency 30-day extension being approved. The Senate is expected to return next week and overcome Bunning’s objection, then pass a bill that will ensure that no one loses their coverage. But if it does not, the federal program covering 65% of COBRA health care payments for unemployed workers who had insurance through their former employers will stop as of the end of February, and extended unemployment insurance checks will be limited to the benefit tier people currently find themselves receiving, no more.

Thousands of Michigan residents would be affected. The state had the highest unemployment rate in the nation at 14.6% in December and about 300,000 Michiganders are receiving extended benefits under the federal program.

For days, Bunning — a Hall of Fame baseball pitcher who played for the Detroit Tigers and the Philadelphia Phillies — has objected to a unanimous consent order to approve the legislation. That could be overcome by a roll call vote, but many members of the Senate already had left town and, even if they were in Washington, it could set the stage for a threatened filibuster — requiring parlimentary moves which could take days to resolve.

Bunning refused to lift his objection unless supporters of the legislation explained how they would pay for it. But even members of his own party were expected to rally around the legislation, which, like many emergency measures, lasts only for a short time until a more permanent fix can be legislated along with funding.

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