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Liberal Groups Push GOP on Jobless Benefits

Gearing up for possibly another week of debate that pits extended unemployment benefits against concerns about the deficit, liberal groups are launching an ad campaign this week urging Maine's two moderate Republican senators to switch their vote on a bill that extends jobless benefits and provides state aid.

The union-backed liberal group Americans United for Change and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) are spending at least $75,000 this week on broadcast and cable television air time in Maine to run an ad called "Kids."

"It's pretty simple, the more jobs we create now, the less Federal debt they'll have to carry later," a narrator says in the ad, which features pictures of young children. "More jobs equal less debt, even our kids can understand that."

The ad urges viewers to call Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, who are perceived as two of the Republicans most likely to cross party lines to back the bill.

The Senate on Thursday failed to pass a package that would, in addition to extending jobless benefits and providing state aid, extend some expired tax breaks for businesses and individuals. It would also raise taxes on oil companies and multinational corporations.

The bill on Thursday failed to get the 60 votes needed largely because Republicans want to see the measure paid for, even though Democratic leaders trimmed down the cost of the bill from earlier versions. Republicans have proposed paying for extended benefits with unused stimulus funds, but a proposal from Republican Sen. John Thune of South Dakota to do so was also shot down on Thursday.

Without congressional action, according to independent estimates, about 1.2 million people will stop receiving unemployment benefits by the end of the month, the Washington Post reports.

"The cuts to critical state aid that Republican leaders are demanding in the name of short-term deficit reduction would actually come at the expense of hundreds of thousands of jobs and long-term deficit reduction because fewer jobs means less tax revenue and more people seeking out public assistance," Tom McMahon, executive director of Americans United for Change, said in a statement.

However, it's not just Republicans complaining about the bill's impact on the deficit. Conservative Democrats up for re-election this year have been concerned about adding to the deficit, and Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska and independent Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut voted with Republicans against the measure on Thursday.

Stephanie Condon

Stephanie Condon is a political reporter for

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