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Senate jobless benefits bill advances slowly

By DAVID ESPO

WASHINGTON (AP) a¿¿ Legislation to resurrect benefits for the long-term unemployed took an essential step Wednesday toward likely Senate approval, despite complaints from Republicans that Democrats refuse to allow changes designed to stimulate job creation.

The vote was 61-38, one more than the 60 needed for the bill to advance toward likely approval in the next several days.

The bill would renew benefits for the long-term unemployed, generally those who have been off the job for more than 26 weeks. An estimated 2.7 million workers have been affected since the program expired at the end of last year.

Democrats began a drive to renew the program in January.

Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., said that in addition to helping the long-term unemployed, the legislation would be a boon to the economy. The benefits go "right to the families ... right to the local grocery store, right to the local gas station for repairs on the care, to pay for daycare that might be necessary for children," he said.

But Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas., said Republicans had filed dozens of proposed changes that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has refused to permit to come to a vote. Among them are proposals to "repeal job-killing taxes (and) improve congressional safeguards against over-regulation," he said.

One was a proposal to allow construction of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline to carry oil from Canada into the United States, and at least two to repeal key parts of the nation's health care law a¿¿ intensely controversial issues that Democratic leaders show no interest in voting on before midterm elections.

Republicans tried twice during the day to obtain votes on their proposals, but were turned aside both times.

Despite the criticism, Democrats agreed earlier to enough changes to the measure to attract the support of five Republicans, enough to assure 60 votes.

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