The U.S. Senate passed a bill today that extends and restores emergency unemployment benefits for more than 2 million Americans.
The 59 to 38 vote sends the legislation championed by Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., to the House of Representatives.
“I urge the House of Representatives to take action on our bill,” Heller said following today's vote. “Nevada’s unemployment remains one of the highest in the nation, which means this extension cannot wait any longer.”
The odds of the House taking up the unemployment extension in its current form, however, are slim.
House Speaker John Boehner has deemed the legislation “unworkable.” He’s cited concerns that it will be too difficult for state employment agencies to implement, and that it doesn’t do enough to create jobs.
The brush-off has made Nevada senators bristle even as they try to strike a conciliatory stance with the House.
“’Unworkable’ I think, is questionable,” Heller said to reporters last week. He added that he thinks “there is room for compromise” and that he plans “to give them [in the House] all the leeway they need.”
The unemployment benefits lapsed in December and the legislation to restore them has been through several changes already.
The original draft couldn’t pull in any Republican support beyond Heller. So he and co-author Jack Reed, D-R.I., revised the bill to find ways to pay for it and stretch the term of the legislation to last until June.
Those steps built a modest Republican coalition to reach 60 votes and break the threat of a filibuster. The Senate Republican coalition was also important for building momentum needed for the House, Heller admitted last week.
“In a final vote, I think you’ll that number [of Republican supporters] brought back up,” Heller told reporters.
Today. six Republicans -- Sens. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, Susan Collins of Maine, Mark Kirk of Illinois, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Rob Portman of Ohio and Heller -– voted for the unemployment legislation.
In the House, Boehner does face some pressure. A small group of Republicans, including Nevada Rep. Joe Heck, sent Boehner a letter today urging him to schedule the Heller-Reed bill for a House vote.
“As many Americans continue to struggle without benefits, we respectfully request that the House immediately consider this bill or a similar measure to restore unemployment benefits to struggling Americans,” Heck wrote, along with six other House Republicans.
Boehner has not publicly responded to their request.