The Senate voted narrowly Tuesday to move ahead with a measure to extend unemployment benefits for the long-term jobless, despite Republican demands for corresponding budget cuts.
Immediately after the surprise vote, President Obama urged Congress to quickly finish the job of providing “a vital economic lifeline” to millions of Americans, part of a public and private campaign to sway wavering Republicans to come aboard. “We’ve got to make sure this recovery leaves nobody behind,” he said, stressing that the deep recession that gripped the nation at the beginning of his first term “was so devastating that there are still a lot of people who are struggling.”
On a 60 to 37 roll call vote, Democrats just cleared the hurdle needed to set up a full debate of the legislation. Six Republicans voted with 54 members of the Democratic caucus to pass the cloture motion that permits the measure to move ahead.
The procedural vote in the Senate came as the two parties jockeyed over the political issue of rising income inequality, with Democrats pushing more aid for the jobless and an increased minimum wage. Obama’s Tuesday speech will be followed later this week by several prominent Republicans touting conservative alternatives around the 50th anniversary of the launch of the “War on Poverty”.