News / USA

Lone US Republican Blocks $10 Billion Jobs and Benefits Bill

Bunning refuses support because funds to pay for measure would be deferred, increasing US budget deficit

U.S. senators are working to pass a long-term bill aimed at stimulating job growth, after a lone Republican senator repeatedly blocked a temporary extension of unemployment benefits.

Republican Senator Jim Bunning of Kentucky has refused to support the $10 billion extension bill because the Senate had not found a way to pay for it without increasing the deficit.

In the Senate Tuesday, Bunning said it was hypocritical of Democrats to pass a "pay as you go" bill, and then present a bill without having the money necessary for it.

But Senate Majority leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, urged Bunning to support the measure and said Republicans all over the country liked the bill.

The jobless benefits covered in the bill expired Monday along with funding for highway projects, small business loans, and a program that helps pay insurance premiums of newly laid-off workers.

The emergency measure needed unanimous consent to pass.

The dispute will not affect most people already getting jobless benefits as long as it is resolved quickly.  But anyone who loses a job now or seeks an extension of benefits will be unable to receive them until Congress passes a new bill.

Lawmakers repeatedly tried to pass the temporary measure last week, but Bunning blocked the legislation each time.  

The senator has slammed his Senate colleagues because they had adopted rules that require the legislative body to have the money necessary for a bill before passing it, and then exempted a bill from the "pay as you go" requirement.

The latest jobs report from the U.S. Labor Department said the number of first-time claims for jobless benefits rose by 22,000 to 496,000 in the week ending February 20.  A department analyst blamed the increase on heavy snowfall across much of the U.S., which prevented many people from working.  

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