Opponents of benefit extensions argue that they can be a disincentive for taking a job.

"Prolonged benefits lead some unemployed workers to spend too much time looking for jobs that they would prefer to find, rather than focusing on jobs that they are more likely to find," said James Sherk, a labor policy analyst at the conservative Heritage Foundation.

But Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, noted that unemployment checks add up to about $15,000 a year. "That's poverty level," he said. "This is not something people just want to continue on, they want to get jobs."

___

Follow Sam Hananel's labor coverage at http://twitter.com/SamHananelAP

Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

If you liked this article you might like

What's Behind the Surge in Energy Stocks

Hillary Clinton Says Prosecuting Individuals is Key to Wall Street Reform