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Efforts to extend jobless benefits fail in Senate

WASHINGTON — Efforts to extend unemployment benefits for at least three months reached an impasse in the Senate on Tuesday as the legislation fell to procedural hurdles, and each party accused the other of negotiating in bad faith.

In back-to-back votes, Democrats were unable to muster enough support to end debate and take up either of two proposals that would have reinstated the unemployment insurance benefits that expired at the end of December.

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The first vote — on a measure proposed by the Democratic leadership that would have extended unemployment benefits for 11 months and paid for it by extending the existing 2 percent cuts to Medicare health providers by one year, through 2024 — failed 52 to 48.

The second vote, on the original bill, which would have extended unemployment benefits for three months at a cost of $6.4 billion, failed 55 to 45.

An extension of unemployment benefits did not make it into the two-year budget deal passed just before Congress left for its winter recess. The emergency federal program had been a lifeline for 1.3 million jobless workers.

During recent negotiations over an unemployment deal, Republicans had balked at what they viewed as the tyrannical leadership of Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the majority leader, who had refused to let Republicans offer any amendments. But on Tuesday, Reid offered to let each party introduce five amendments to the legislation.

Republicans remained displeased, however, saying his requirement that each amendment receive 60 votes to pass unfairly doomed their measures, especially since Reid was demanding that Republicans give up the customary 60-vote threshold to end debate on the final bill.

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