Unemployment benefits bill makes progress in the Senate

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After several setbacks, the Senate on Thursday finally gathered enough votes to begin official debate over a bill to restore benefits for the long-term unemployed.

The Senate voted 65 to 34 to advance the measure, which would reauthorize the Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC) program for five months. The program assists people who have typically been unemployed for at least 27 weeks.

No Democrat or Independent voted against the measure, while 10 Republicans joined Democrats to advance it: Sens. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, Dan Coats of Indiana, Susan Collins of Maine, Bob Corker of Tennessee, Dean Heller of Nevada, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, Mark Kirk of Illinois, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Rob Portman of Ohio, and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania. Sen. Pat Moran, R-Kansas, did not vote.

The bill is fully paid for and would introduce reforms to the program including ending payments to wealthy individuals and giving more individualized aid to the long-term unemployed. The benefits would be restored retroactively, going back to when to when the program expired on Dec. 28. Since then, about 2.2 million people have lost access to government assistance.

A final vote on the bill is expected in the Senate next week, but it's unlikely it will advance any further than that. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, on Tuesday once again insisted that he's not interested in considering the Senate compromise bill, calling the legislation "not implementable."

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