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    Senate fails to advance unemployment extension

    Senate majority leader Harry Reid says he needs one more GOP vote to advance the bill.
    Larry Downing/Reuters
    Senate majority leader Harry Reid says he needs one more GOP vote to advance the bill.

    WASHINGTON — Senate Republicans narrowly blocked the advance of legislation to restore benefits for the long-term unemployed on Thursday for the second time in less than a month, and Democrats said they intended to call yet another vote on the issue.

    ‘‘We’re one Republican vote away from restoring unemployment benefits for 1.7 million Americans,’’ Senate majority leader Harry Reid, Democrat of Nevada, said.

    The White House called the outcome disappointing.


    The measure called for a three-month renewal of an expired program that provided up to 47 weeks of federal benefits when state-paid aid runs out, generally after 26 weeks. The cost was estimated at slightly more than $6 billion over a decade. It would have been offset by lowering pension obligations for some companies, a step that would have increased their taxable income.

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    The vote was 58-40, two shy of the 60 that backers of the measure needed to prevail. That understated the measure’s support, because Reid sided with opponents at the last minute in a maneuver that permits him to have the issue reconsidered.

    Republicans Dean Heller of Nevada, Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, and Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire sided with 52 Democrats and two independents on the vote.

    The attempt to renew expired jobless benefits was the first legislation that majority Democrats placed before the Senate this year, and represents the leading edge of their attempt to gain support among economically-strapped Americans as polls show voters are concerned about the gap between rich and poor.

    One Republican critic of the bill, Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma, issued a statement that said, ‘‘We can get Americans back to work and our economy booming again, but this is not achieved by Washington turning a temporary federal benefit into another welfare program.’’


    At the time the old program expired at the end of the year, officials said it cut off benefits for 1.3 million long-term jobless. Since then, Democrats say the total has swelled to more than 1.7 million, including 60,000 in Massachusetts.

    Supporters of the legislation say that while joblessness overall is receding, long-term unemployment is still at a high level.

    “By again turning their backs on Americans looking for work, Senate Republicans are going for the gold medal in cold-hearted obstructionism,’’ Senator Edward Markey, Democrat of Massachusetts, said in a statement. “Republicans refuse to work together to solve even the most basic of issues for Americans.’’

    Markey’s counterpart, Senator Elizabeth Warren, had been vocal in support of the bill on the Senate floor in the days leading up to the vote.